By D. Allan Kerr
When police responded to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, they found the bodies of 15 first-graders and two staffers piled in and around the entrance of one class bathroom, gunned down at point-blank range. The teachers had apparently been trying to hide their students when the gunman burst into the classroom and opened fire.
The killer used an AR-15-type semi-automatic rifle, the same kind of weapon used at last month’s mass killing in Parkland, Florida.
There’s a time to bitch and a time to actually make your voice be heard. If you’re among those who believe more can be done to ensure the safety of schoolkids, this Saturday is your chance to be heard.
Thousands are expected to take part in the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on March 24, spearheaded by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students from Parkland.
But as of this writing, more than 700 additional “sibling” events are being held all over the world in support of the D.C. march.
In New Hampshire’s Seacoast region, the local demonstration is scheduled to be held in downtown Portsmouth’s Market Square at 1 p.m. on Saturday the 24th. (To find a March For Our Lives event near you, click here.)
“We’re so proud of these brave kids who have been through so much,” said Amy Moore of Moms Demand Action, one of the groups participating in the Portsmouth event. “We stand with them united and determined to keep our kids safe.”
(Full disclosure: Amy and her daughter, Aidia, are good friends of the Kerr household.)
Some folks have complained about linking school safety concerns to gun control legislation, but given what’s happening in America in recent years it’s hard to separate the two. Amy points out that an average of seven kids a day are killed by guns in this country, and the gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than in other high-income countries.
“We support the Second Amendment but believe common-sense solutions can help decrease the escalating epidemic of gun violence that kills too many of our children and loved ones every day,” she said.
The mission statement of the March For Our Lives organizers, part of the #NeverAgain movement, reads:
“There cannot be two sides to doing everything in our power to ensure the lives and futures of children who are at risk of dying when they should be learning, playing and growing.”
Like a lot of people, I was pretty sure there would be serious gun control measures when 32 students and faculty were murdered at Virginia Tech in 2007. And I had no doubt SOMETHING would be done after 20 innocent little first-graders and six of their teachers were gunned down at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut.
But here we are.
It’s been inspiring to see these Parkland kids step up in recent weeks because, Lord knows, we aren’t getting much leadership from the top.
Our current commander-in-chief derided fellow Republicans at a live-telecast bipartisan meeting a couple of weeks ago for being “afraid” of the National Rifle Association, and pushed for a wide range of gun control measures. The very same week, he limped a timid retreat after the NRA paid him a visit at the White House.
Not everyone is going to agree on the perfect solution to end gun violence. Personally, I have a problem telling an 18-year old kid he – or she – can carry a weapon if they’re fighting for our country in a foreign land, but they can’t enjoy the same rights as other gun owners here at home.
But as Amy says, those responsible for passing laws in this country should be able to agree on common-sense solutions to help curb this insanity. If we’re not going to ban military-style assault weapons, we should at the very least make it less easy for people to walk out of the store with one the same day of purchase.
Some Second Amendment supporters complain such measures are the first step to taking away our guns entirely.
I apologize for not remembering where I read this, but someone recently remarked this is like saying speed limits and insurance requirements are blatant efforts to someday take away our vehicles.
School safety is just one component of the gun debate. Mass shootings have also occurred in churches, music festivals, nightclubs, and movie theaters. But with this current momentum under way, schools may be the best starting point.
Likewise, gun measures are only part of the formula we need to keep our kids safe. Mental health reform also needs to be addressed.
March For Our Lives has already received pledges of $500,000 or more, each, from folks like George Clooney, Stephen Spielberg and Oprah. Similar gatherings are taking place this same day throughout Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada.
Just this past Wednesday, students walked out of more than 3,000 schools all across the country in memory of the 17 kids and staffers who were murdered in Parkland last month. Surviving Parkland students speaking out for change have become so visible they are now celebrities themselves.
It would seem the moment of taking real action is at hand, but I’ve thought the same thing in the past. As the father of a beautiful little fourth-grader, I too am ready for something other than thoughts and prayers from our politicians.
D. Allan Kerr urges all parties in the gun control debate to imagine what those Sandy Hook first-graders must have experienced in their final moments.
(March 17, 2018)