Again, on 25May22 I awoke to learn that there was another school shooting in the US- this time in Texas; a small elementary school where the killer took out 19 students and two teachers. The gunman had recently purchased TWO assault weapons at the local gun store for his 18th birthday. This purchase (in addition to the social media posts he did afterward) really makes one question what drives this violence. Also I would imagine it would elevate him to some kind of watch list?
President Obama shared: “In a series of tweets, former president Barack Obama said that “nearly ten years after Sandy Hook – and ten days after Buffalo – our country is paralyzed, not by fear, but by a gun lobby and a political party that have shown no willingness to act in any way that might help prevent these tragedies”. (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/may/24/texas-school-shooting-uvelde-what-we-know) President Biden addressed the nation and said: “It’s time to turn this pain into action.”
What does action really look like? There is of course the legal routes- passing more laws, more discourse on the 2nd Amendment right and the political conflicts and vibe for power/ perceived control. This route has been explored now for the last twenty years or more since Sandy Hook. According to NPR, 2022 has already seen 198 mass shootings and last year there were over 673. Unfortunately it seems that action has been defined by engaging in more killings, more rage and a society living with this violence as a reality. This website has a lot of great statistics to pull from and explains why the numbers keep rising: “The United States is not the only country with mental illness, domestic violence, or hate-fueled ideologies, but our gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than other high-income countries.1 The difference is easy access to guns. This connection is not just theoretical. US states with weaker gun laws and higher gun ownership rates have higher rates of mass shootings.”
The political route does not seem to be working to curb the violence and the beliefs that gun ownership is a human right. We also know that the political landscape continues to get more and more murky and flooded with BIG money to achieve control/ the opportunity to legislate. Here are a just a few graphs to capture the numbers taken from Open Source:
Over $14 Billion was spent to elect the US President for 2020. In 1776 that would have been equivalent to just over $421,000. Our founding fathers spent ZERO on their political campaigns and relied on word of mouth from his supporters.
The costs for running for Congress are no bargain either. Here is a snapshot of what was spent in more local elections for 2020.
Some may believe that all the big money going in to elections is the result of the Republicans yet according to the records the Democrats spent significantly more in 2020. Is that why they had won a small majority in both House and Senate for 2020? Is it all down to MONEY?
This graph I think speaks volumes and where the REAL power is. In 2020 small donors and self funding campaigns equaled 33% of the fundraising. This is significant in that what if WE did something more than pay for adverts?
A CALL to ACTION
As educators we must keep the dialogue with our learners open, fluid and focused. The gunman in the Texas shooting was in fact a high school dropout which means he had at least five teachers and a school team that one would assume had him on the radar since he stopped attending school. By developing trusting relationships with our students, families and local authorities we could tap into the support services and work to de-escalate the urge towards real violence.
As educators we must empower our students with skills to recognize problems and be pro-active to take action. There needs to be systems in place so that friends or acquaintances of such culprits are not questioning if an adult needs to be informed. Imagine the guilt this circle of people will have to live with for the rest of their lives when such incidences may have been prevented if we were pro-active and had authentic lines of communication open.
As educators we must also teach our students about their responsibilities and privileges the laws offer to persons in the United States. Students need to know what constitutes ‘Freedom of Speech’ and where it violates others’ rights and is NOT permissible in relation to infringement of harming others. Here is a good resource that captures these limitations from the US Court system. They need to know what it means to have the ‘Right to Bear Arms’ and its intention to not be for the offensive, harmful, violence against others but instead a means to protect one’s self in the event of an attack. Even the NRA states that the second amendment secures one’s ability to protect oneself with a gun and that it should only be used for lawful purposes- not gunning down innocent, unarmed people.
As a community, especially those in the business of selling arms we owe it to our community, family and society to insure that those purchasing such weapons are doing so aligned to the law’s intentions. Making a sale, earning some bucks without a conscience or due diligence puts the salesperson/ business owner in the seat of an accomplice. Sure the salesperson did not pull the trigger but did they not give the killer access? Yes the sale was ‘legal’ but buying two weapons immediately upon turning 18 makes one question WHY.
As a just, caring society the US has the means to take action to focus on laying down the arms and opening the lines of discourse. There is no other developed nation facing this kind of violence with the exception of those in active WAR. The gun violence in many ways is like an unorganized civil war that continues to decay our original values as stated in the Declaration of Independence: We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Substitute the term ‘Men’ for people, these core principles can still stand if WE the PEOPLE take responsible action. Responsible action specifically in the advent of the rise in gun violence, the excess of campaign costs and the lack of basic human rights may look very different to what has been tried via the reliance on legislation. Imagine if a large, common fund were set up to reward people to turn in their weapons? Instead of fueling the political campaigns we were to fuel a gun-buyback program along with an educational campaign for why automatic and semi-automatic weapons are not necessary for the general public to own. Research has proven that buyback programs alone are not effective but as part of a wider strategy of education, society pressure and promotion of personal responsibility I believe there is hope to turn this horrible trend. Especially now as we see the economy shifting and inflation impacting a lot of Americans, a buy back program with some substance would probably be welcome.
The US does not have to be one of the most violent, developed countries where its citizens are vulnerable and many live in fear. With the exception of tragic accidents or natural disasters people should be able to believe that their loved ones going to and from school and work will return each night and not have to worry for their safety. Since when should educators have to be strategic with where they put their desks in the advent of an active shooter? This reality is not one of a healthy, sane nation.
The US needs to have a serious mind-shift and embrace significant change or reaffirmation of the core values. The US has powerful fundamental values that provide ample space for individuals to have an impact. The media captures a lot of the terror, rage and perhaps emphasizes a deficit model too often. We as a society that cares for one another need to be vocal, stand up and do what is right.
Some actions can include talking with community members and organizing a buy back program for weapons, staging local boycotts of businesses that promote or assist in access to violent acts, setting up a community hotline for support and mental health resources, We can’t accept the status quo in the US as acceptable; those who have had the privilege of traveling to other countries will know that in most developed countries one is safe and threats are far and few between. There is a bit of unity between government agencies, local community resources and the public that prioritizes everyone’s safety. There is a sentiment of prioritizing everyone’s safety for the greater good as compared to what is one’s individual rights.
With education and having clarity about core values we need to have open discourse and conquer this rage. There is no shortage of resources- I have included a few that can have real impact.
|Resource Name||Short Description|
|Teachers Without Borders||Amazing professional development courses for teachers/ educators on topics such as:|
Education in Emergencies
Diversity and Inclusion
Our Initiative for Ukraine.
|Facing History Ourselves||Amazing resources and professional development to teach all kinds of social justice topics and help learners understand multiple perspectives and historical relevance. Personally I have used this curriculum in the past and students shared how much they learned and appreciated understanding the different perspectives.|
|Ojai Foundation Council Social Equity Project||This group provides amazing training to schools to help give them a structure to sustain open dialogue and communication about critical issues.|
|Adaptive School Practices||Amazing resource of tools to help facilitate challenging conversations and engage the voices of all participants. Years ago I was trained in these practices and since have used them in every setting I worked thereafter.|
|Restorative Justice Programs||This group provides tools and case studies for how restorative justice can help communities move beyond the past and transform to a more productive, meaningful future. To engage in this type of practice it is critical teachers are ‘armed’ with all the tools and support and have a support group for them as well as their students.|
We must work together, take action and change the status quo in the US. Really it is a mindset of what is and what is not acceptable. All people living there should not have to go about their regular lives in fear of being shot or their loved ones being shot. If you are a teacher, a school or school leader that needs support to bring forward a change in practice, shift in culture feel free to reach out. Educators- you have the power to impact this mindset. Preparing for active shooter scenarios is not a common practice in most places in the world because the threat is so low or non-existent.
When a society feels safe, mental health improves and the overall life quality rises. May the US work on all the different levels to return to being a beacon of democratic, inclusive human rights and put a stop to this violence and hatred. We must move forward intentionally and be responsible for our actions.
What will you do to help change this mindset so that our children, friends and family have the human right of safety?