Our children return to the new school year asking an impossible question: “What will you do to keep me safe?” Instead of looking forward to the excitement of returning to school, students are worrying for their safety. The threat of gun violence has become a daily reality in our lives, gripping headlines, and met with routine inaction.
To cope with this reality, communities have begun offering active shooter training courses, as the Johns Creek Police does. Parents can purchase bulletproof backpacks on Amazon, and children learn easy-to-remember acronyms like ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) to prepare them for the worst-case scenario in their schools. We must ask ourselves if this is the new normal. I would hope not.
Research has shown that access to guns is a positive indicator for gun violence. Countries with stricter gun laws have less gun violence. However, the facts do not matter in this discussion, emotions do. How we feed those emotions channels our discussion on gun safety and constricts our ability to transfer facts and data into meaningful, effective legislation.
Let’s focus on the issues I believe we can all agree upon: we have a right to feel safe in our community, a right to feel safe at work, and a right to feel safe going shopping or enjoying a relaxing evening on the town with friends. Our children deserve the right to feel safe in their classrooms and to grow up safely in their hometowns.
Recent events of mass shootings have amplified our fear and made clear that this right to safety continues to be violated over and over again. The question remains: what can we do?
How can we bridge the gap between those who feel safe not carrying a gun, and uphold the rights of responsible gun owners who do feel safe carrying a gun? How can we address each other’s fears without fearing each other, while moving on to developing meaningful compromise that honors everybody’s right to feel safe?
First, we need to find common ground to work toward a compromise, so we can end the mourning of innocent lives stolen by acts of horrendous gun violence. To me, this compromise must include common sense gun safety laws — including background checks for all firearm transactions and closing the gun trade show loophole. But we need to do more.
Second, we need to stop shifting blame. In the midst of fear, it’s easy to point fingers and place blame onto mental health issues, violent video games or a loss of family values. However, research on gun violence shows that correlation does not imply causation. Mental illness is indeed a national health issue, but the vast majority of people suffering from mental illness seek professional treatment and do not pose a threat. The vast majority of those who play video games are nonviolent. Family background is not a reliable indicator for gun violence. Shifting blame is not helpful; rather, it stirs the polarization of the discussion.
We do ourselves the greatest disservice when we double down on our opinions before giving earnest consideration to outside perspectives. I believe we have the ability to come together to address the gun violence epidemic and formulate a practical plan to reduce gun violence. We owe it to our children to seek a mutually beneficial solution that all of us will support.
Most importantly, we must take quick action to ensure that those who pose a threat should not be allowed access to guns. During the legislative session, I cosponsored a Red Flag Law Bill (HB 435) that would allow police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves. Regrettably, the bill went nowhere. I ask you to stand with me now and take action, because these seemingly mundane policy proposals have very real consequences.
We all deserve to feel safe, so let’s have an open conversation on implementing lifesaving gun safety laws while also supporting the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners because bulletproof backpacks should not be on your back-to-school shopping list, and all of us have a right to feel safe from gun violence.