My Child Came Home Alive From School This Week

When I was growing up, my parents felt relatively safe sending me off to school. I was a massive nerd and received a wedgie or three and had to deal with a few beatings through the years, but at the end of the day they were at least 99% certain that even if something bad happened, they wouldn’t be crying over my casket.

Parents today don’t have that luxury. This past week, we were yet again reminded that our children are not safe even in places where they would be safe anymore thanks to our rapidly-expanding gun culture and NRA acolytes’ rapidly dwindling ability to think rationally about anything involving firearms.

Even before this latest in a seemingly endless of completely preventable tragedies, 80 percent of Americans favored a ban on assault weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines and “bump stocks” (used to convert semi-automatic weapons into makeshift automatic weapons). Similarly, 80 percent said that they favor a federal database to track all gun sales.

While the exact amounts vary, something between a plurality and a  majority of Republicans, Democrats, and independents agree that these are all very good ideas.

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“Similar divides existed on other restrictions — fully 88 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Republicans, and 82 percent of independents favor banning bump stocks,” NPR noted in October. “But while three-quarters of Democrats ‘strongly favor’ this kind of ban, only around half of Republicans and independents do.”

I live in semi-rural West Virginia — a state that has more gun-related crime than the majority of states. It’s not the worst in the nation, but it’s certainly not the best.

Last year, my Governor signed a bill allowing concealed carry permit holders (West Virginia grants concealed carry permits to anyone legally able to own a gun, which is nearly everyone with few exceptions) to bring guns (including long guns like those typically used in shootings) to their children’s schools while picking them up as long as they pinky swear to leave them in the car — a provision I have seen multiple parents violating the few times I drive to pick him up from school (he normally rides the bus).

It’s unclear why anyone would think this is a good idea, but it happened and now parents must deal with it at a time when schoolchildren are bravely sacrificing their lives to protect Billy Joe Bob’s right to parade around the baby clothes aisle of  Target with an assault rifle.

“I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But: As harsh as this sounds — your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights,” Bush and McCain campaign mouthpiece “Joe the Plumber” famously said in an open letter to families of mass shooting victims.

It’s easy to write him off as “just an asshole,” but unfortunately this is the same view held by Republicans in Congress, President Stable Genius, the NRA, and all of their collective puppets. They simply don’t care.

My child made it home safe from school every day this week. Each morning, however, I felt like I was sending him off to war.

Right now in America, children are learning how to hide from a shooter. How to scramble in different directions not so they can live, but so they can live for a few seconds longer. How to construct barricades. How to do everything they can to survive. This is not something that should be happening in schools.

While Republicans’ solution is to arm teachers, it’s time for us to look to more sensible people for guidance — like Australia, who hasn’t had a mass shooting since 1996 and should serve as a model for dealing with gun violence. The country passed legislation following an attack in which a man armed with a semiautomatic weapon gunned down 35 people. Australia responded by banning rapid-fire guns and buying the now-illegal firearms. Since the law’s passage, there has been a sharper decline in firearm-related deaths, but researchers are not sure if the law can be credited with that added benefit.

While I have been able to hug my son at the end of every school day this week, 13 students’ families in Florida did not have that luxury. And a luxury is what it is. Every parent regardless of political ideology should consider that our children could be the next unwilling martyrs for the NRA’s abhorrent causes — and ultimately, our children’s safety should trump any desire we may have to treat our homes like bunkers.

My son came home this week. Alyssa Alhadeff didn’t. Martin Duque Anguiano didn’t. Nicholas Dworet didn’t. Nor did Jaime Guttenberg, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alexander Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, or Peter Wang.

Before Republicans finally get off their asses and enact the will of the people rather than that of the the NRA, many more children won’t come home. Like every parent, I hope mine isn’t one of them. It’s a damn shame that it apparently has to be this way.