This August, we are sending our children back to school with the sound of gunshots still ringing in our ears. It is really, really hard.
In Athens-Clarke County, Schools Superintendent Demond Means, school district Police Chief Mark Sizemore, and the Board of Education place a high priority on making our area schools safe.
At an Aug. 6 Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America meeting, Dr. Means reported that the schools in ACC have updated their safety features including daily perimeter checks around every school by the school district police. Outside doors are checked to be sure they are locked, and all classroom doors now have interior locks.
Is it enough? Dr. Means would like more.
He needs the funding for more counselors and more advisors who could implement threat assessment programs (https://curry.virginia.edu/faculty-research/centers-labs-projects/research-labs/youth-violence-project/virginia-student-threat), which have been found to be effective tools in preventing school gun violence.
Funding is needed for panic buttons for the front office administrative assistants and more security cameras.
While there are both hard and soft lockdown drills, there are no active shooter drills planned since Dr.
Means feels they are too traumatic for the kids. Anyone who has had a child come home asking questions starting with “Why” knows this is true. One thing he insisted he will never do is arm teachers. We were all very happy to hear that, as the risks associated with arming teachers far outweigh the benefits (https://everytownresearch.org/arming-teachers-introduces-new-risks-into-schools/).
What Dr. Means cannot do to protect our children is keep guns out of the hands of those who are at risk of doing harm to themselves or others. Nor can he insist that everyone who buys a gun undergo a background check. That, my friends and neighbors, is up to us. It is time.
No, it is past time to stand up to our elected officials and demand that they take action. What can you do? You can insist that Extreme Risk Protection Orders, sometimes referred to as Red Flag laws, are passed. When a person is in crisis and considering harming themselves or others, family members and law enforcement are often the first people to see the warning signs. Red Flag laws empower those who recognize these warning signs to intervene in order to temporarily prevent someone in crisis from accessing firearms (https://everytownresearch.org/extreme-risk-laws/
You can advocate for background checks for all gun sales, sometimes referred to as universal background checks. Though more than 90 percent of the American public supports background checks for all gun sales, a dangerous and deadly loophole in federal gun laws still exempts unlicensed sellers from having to perform any background check whatsoever before selling a firearm. With this loophole, guns easily find their way into the hands of illegal buyers and gun traffickers, dramatically increasing the likelihood of gun homicides and suicides https://lawcenter.giffords.org/
We know these laws work. States that have implemented Red Flag laws and universal background checks have seen significant reductions in gun violence https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/theres-something-states-can-do-about-gun-violence-red-flag-laws/2018/03/01/22ddf06c-1cc4-11e8-ae5a-16e60e4605f3_story.html?noredirect.
What else can you do? Educate yourself and your neighbors about proper gun storage. A recent Everytown for Gun Safety report titled Keeping Our Schools Safe found that 78 percent of the guns used in school shootings came from the shooter’s home or the home of a friend or a family member https://everytownresearch.org/keeping-our-schools-safe/.
Moms Demand Action has a program that can help you learn how to safely store your guns and ensure that your children’s visits to friends’ homes are equally safe. The local group is available to make free BeSMART presentations http://besmartforkids.org
And finally, join a group and make your voice heard. It will take all our voices and many approaches to end gun violence. It will be community groups acting directly in their communities, and people pushing for legislative change. See below for a short list of organizations fighting against gun violence and for positive change for all children. If we can make our world safe for all children, maybe it will be safer for all of us.
Julie Nelson, Marisue Hilliard and Daphne Onderdonk, Concerned residents of Athens and supporters of Moms Demand Action
To plug into local actions to prevent gun violence, join the local Facebook group (Athens, GA Moms Demand Action) or check out the national website http://www.momsdemandaction.org.
Other resources include:
Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement https://www.aadmovement.org
Keep the G Gun Free https://www.facebook.com/KeeptheGgunfree
Athens Alliance Coalition, Inc. https://alliancecoalitionllc.com