The principles of a fair and just society are built on a common understanding of basic tenets in which truth outweighs fiction and we care for all of our vulnerable populations. When fear-based Band-aid rhetoric about gun sense in America replaces these inherent principles of civility, the lives of children are put at risk.
How can we make a difference? How do we respond in a way that creates sustainable, effective change?
We become vigilant advocates for the type of society our future generations need in order to thrive, explore and grow. We start a dialogue that upholds the truth.
Central to the issue of providing a safe space for children to flourish is the school board. Currently, the Durango School District 9-R Board of Education is considering arming school staff, who in turn would be recognized as armed security guards.
Moms Demand Action is strongly opposed to this proposal and believes that support for this line of thinking is based on misinformation.
A dilemma we face when determining how best to protect the wellbeing of our community’s children is how to promote facts over misleading commentary. It’s easy to be seduced by the promise of instant security in the face of so much school violence, but I urge all of us to start looking at this crisis as a public safety issue that we can address collectively and methodically with action that is based on data and evidence.
Just as vehicle safety was addressed and then improved, leaders have begun to take action in response to the prescription drug crisis. The same rational response to the issue of gun safety begins with a nonpartisan review of the facts in order to understand the root problem. Only then can effective solutions be determined.
At a recent school board meeting, leaders of our local law enforcement organizations, including from the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, Durango Police, Colorado State Patrol and Durango Fire all spoke out clearly against the idea of non-law enforcement personnel being armed in our schools.
Among the many reasons against having guns in schools in the hands of anyone other than trained and experienced law enforcement officers is that school security guards, who would not be outfitted in uniformed police gear, would be unrecognizable to law enforcement in an emergency situation. This creates a more chaotic situation for law enforcement responding to incidents of violence.
The presence of more weapons in schools does not make children and staff safer.
It is a gross miscalculation to push weapons carried by non-law enforcement personnel as a way to protect our children. The bulk of the research clearly shows the opposite to be true. The presence of deadly weapons creates more opportunities for accidents and mishandling than for protection. This isn’t true because I state it or feel it – this is true because there is ample evidence to support it.
School shootings across the United States evoke an initial, visceral response that prompts us to react with outrage. An intense emotional reaction is triggered every time we hear about another horrific experience faced by our country’s children. We cannot healthily maintain the outrage day after day. But emotional, knee-jerk reactions lead to unsafe practices. I am urging you to respond – not just react – to this outrage by reviewing the overwhelming body of research and the testimony of groups such as the National Education Association regarding the arming of school staff. A 2018 Gallup poll showed 73% of teachers nationwide oppose arming staff. The same poll shows that 58% of teachers think arming them and their colleagues would make schools less safe.
Let’s not be distracted by the erroneous assumption that stopping a bad guy with a gun takes a good guy with a gun.
I’d like to suggest that we, as a community that takes the safety of our children seriously, apply our collective energy toward advocating for preventative measures to protect our schools. Let’s promote educational programs – such as Be SMART – that teach the importance of safely storing weapons.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety in America, 4.6 million children live in homes with guns that are both loaded and unlocked. It’s a hard fact that home is the No. 1 source of the guns used in many shootings perpetrated by children.
I’d like to see schools become the pillars of our communities; a place where we care for each other’s children as much as our own, where we as guardians feel comfortable reminding each other of safe practices; where we aren’t weary of bringing up gun safety for fear of alienating each other.
We urge the members of the 9-R school board to take into grave consideration the opinions of law enforcement and the majority of community members opposed to arming school staff.
Before determining the next steps on the issue of school safety, the board needs to begin an open, transparent community dialogue about how best to create schools in which children feel safe, and educators, parents and guardians feel empowered – armed with the information and tools that will effectively create safer schools.
In a community where the topic of gun safety is not deemed too controversial to talk about or the means to create such a place aren’t shrouded in misinformation, we can get back to making learning the pinnacle of our schools.
Robin Halloran is the local leader of an activist group advocating for gun sense in America. She lives in Durango.