By Rachel Brody |
The National Rifle Association, after remaining silent for an entire week following the Newtown massacre, has called for more guns in our schools and our society. This is both irresponsible and dangerous. At a moment of great grief, it is unfortunate the NRA decided to be polemical, instead of serious or constructive, about confronting the epidemic of gun violence in our nation.
It is true we must act, but we also must help the people in Newtown heal. And we must collectively mourn the loss of children and educators in Newtown, and the thousands of other victims of gun violence in our country.
Schools must be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses. Anyone who would suggest otherwise doesn't understand that our public schools must first and foremost be places where teachers can safely educate and nurture our students.
Why do I say that? Clearly the NRA hasn't visited schools in a while. They aren't one room anymore; most have multiple doors and wings. Is the NRA proposing an armed guard at every door? Every wing? Every floor? Outside every classroom? Where does it stop?
The NRA's call also ignores the facts. The armed guards at Columbine didn't stop that tragic shooting, and the police force at Virginia Tech didn't prevent the violent attack there.
It is our collective responsibility to keep schools safe, to enact reasonable gun-safety laws,and to ensure that mental health services are available and accessible.
The American Federation of Teachers supports common sense gun-control legislation, including banning assault weapons and large ammunition magazines, requiring thorough background checks, and making sure that gun owners keep their weapons secure. The last thing we need is efforts by some politicians and the NRA to arm educators and allow more guns in our schools.
We also have a collective responsibility to help those who are suffering from mental health disorders. We cannot continue to slash funding for social workers and mental health services and just tell people they are on their own. It's our obligation to make mental health services more accessible to those in need and to reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions.
There is no simple fix to the problems we face, and sound-bite solutions do a disservice to our children and communities. Our kids are counting on us—and we need to act in a real, comprehensive way to help them heal and keep them safe. And that doesn't mean adding more guns to the problem.
About Randi Weingarten President of the American Federation of Teachers
Erich Pratt Director of Communications for Gun Owners of America
Gene Hoffman Chairman of the Calguns Foundation.