Scared Kids, Murdered Students, Grieving Families: It’s Time to Stop Gun Violence

Schools have fire drills: An alarm sounds, and kids practice exiting the building. It’s an important safety practice but routine, and almost feels like fun as kids get outside for a few minutes, hardly expecting an actual fire.

In the US, school safety now includes a new drill: Kids practice how to increase their chances of survival if someone enters their classroom to kill them with a gun – and the threat feels far too real to many families. Kids are being taught that they are not safe. They go to school fearing not only a mean kid or a difficult test, but death by gunshot. Stop School Shootings and Gun Violence - www.anyworkingmom.com

Does that not send chills down your spine? Does that not make you want to stop what you’re doing and go squeeze your child tightly, sending up a whisper of gratitude that your baby is safe?

Even safety drills could not save the lives of 17 people in Parkland, Florida, recently when a former student came to their school and shot them with a “highly deadly military-inspired rifle.”

I will confess something: When the headlines first appeared on my screen, I scrolled faster, feeling a protective urge to just block them out. Same with the school shooting in the southern US state of Kentucky in January that barely captured notice, and same with other recent mass shootings, because these massacres are devastating. If I really, really think about them, I want to sob and I want to scream.

Pain and Grief Are Affecting Too Many

If I let myself think about the latest shooting, I can’t stop imagining the terror the schoolkids experienced in the last moments of their lives, and the physical pain. And I can’t stop picturing how their parents and siblings must feel – hearts completely crushed, lives suddenly inexplicable, unbearable.

The fact that these mass shootings – yes, at schools, but also at churches and other gatherings – are becoming more commonplace is sickening. It is to the country’s shame that some communities have long been ravaged by gun violence despite efforts to fight it.  And now even more Americans are separated by only one or two degrees from someone whose life was ended by a bullet.

Stop Gun Violence, Protect Kids - www.anyworkingmom.comAdd to this horror the suggestions by the US president, among others, that the solution might be to arm teachers and bring more weapons into classrooms. It seems like a plan to thrill and appease those who profit most from guns and the people who are convinced their personal desires matter more than kids’ safety. It must seem appealing as a show of being moved to act, when virtually nothing has actually been done to increase the safety surrounding gun possession. Even after the heartbreaking shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the cycle has remained the same. (How could the government increase gun safety? Here are just a few ideas, but there are so many proposed laws that have gone nowhere. President Donald Trump sparked cautious optimism in many recently, but his words in one speech are hardly a guarantee of actual change.)

Spending hundreds of millions – or even billions – of dollars on training and arming more shooters in the classroom (but they’d be the good guys, right?!)  cannot be the logical way to prevent more deaths. Not to get too technical, but it seems utterly bonkers to me. And TERRIFYING. Recent close calls in classrooms – where, guess what! even teachers can behave unpredictably and dangerously  – should be enough to show how risks can increase along with the presence of guns.

It is equally unbearable that children in other countries– think war-torn Syria or Yemen – live in far worse nightmares of violence and insecurity. But like Switzerland, the US is a country with democratic values (though their practical execution is sometimes flawed) and so many resources, making these recurrent tragedies feel especially disgraceful because they seem more preventable. It is not beyond citizens’ power to try to stop this violence.

This Cannot Be the New Normal

If I really think about all this, I know it’s not enough: I have to do something. One thing everyone can do – Americans, or for that matter Swiss citizens concerned about the prevalence of guns and risk of gun violence, even in relatively safe Switzerland – is to call and write to their elected officials and tell them to support gun laws that keep people safe. Engage in peaceful activism like the teenagers who survived the shooting at the school in Florida and are now speaking up so effectively and bravely. And, of course, vote for politicians who support gun laws to make kids (and everyone) safer.

Boycotting businesses or encouraging them to change their policies – a.k.a. ‘voting with our dollars’ – can also work. Several major US companies have actually set new rules for selling weapons and stopped supporting the most powerful pro-gun/anti-gun-regulation organization thanks to people speaking up since the Florida school shooting.

Another effective way to contribute to change is to volunteer or give financial support to organizations that promote safe gun policies. For example, I am donating to a fund raiser for a US organization called Everytown for Gun Safety. (This fund raiser runs through March 7. Contributions will effectively be doubled as they will be matched by former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg.)

Stop Gun Violence - www.anyworkingmom.comWhen these headlines flash on my screen, I feel heartbroken for my home country and thankful my kids are in Switzerland. There are guns everywhere (I still find young soldiers with huge guns on the train unsettling, even if the guns aren’t loaded). But we walk happily among the crowds at Fasnacht (Swiss carnival), the Chilbi (town fair), go to the movies, walk outside at night – all without mortal fear. My 13-year-old hadn’t even heard about the most recent school shooting, let alone felt scared or had to practice hiding under her desk.

Since just wishing these shootings would stop hasn’t helped, I’m standing with the millions of parents and kids who are demanding change. We are fortunate here in Switzerland, but this sense of security we enjoy is something all kids and their parents deserve every day, everywhere.

 

To share your views, suggestions, concerns or experiences on this topic in Switzerland, the US or wherever you live, please leave a comment. On a mobile phone, scroll down to find the comment field. Thank you. zu den Kommentaren

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