I was given a hammer in the case we ever had an active shooter on my school campus

Grab the hammer. 

Turn off the lights. 

Huddle up the children and stay quiet. 

The adrenaline from the active shooter drills made my heart race and my hands tremble. Although some seasoned teachers have become desensitized by the practicing of the drills over and over again, my eyes would water from the intensity of what we were practicing for. Conjuring up images of my death, I would imagine being slaughtered first, defending my students, if a shooter were to walk into my classroom. My thoughts would then wander to my own children and how they would have to grow up without a mom.  

Scrolling through my Google news feed, I was parked in the pickup line at my son’s elementary school when I saw the story of the shooting in Uvalde. At the time, the headline read: Fourteen students and one teacher killed. My eyes stung with tears as they had done during the active shooter drills when I was teaching. As the hours passed and the story unraveled, the headline evolved: 18 Children, 2 Adults dead; 18 Children, 3 Adults; 19 Children, 2 Adults…  

Grab the hammer. 

Turn off the lights. 

Huddle up the children and stay quiet. 

As a former educator and parent of two, I am urging Americans to read the details of this atrocity. Be devastated. Read them and then re-read them. Read about Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia shielding their students before being killed and the ten-year-old shot to death while trying to call emergency services in that classroom. Read about all the lives lost, look at the pictures, and listen to the stories and comments from the parents, family members and friends experiencing an unfathomable heartache that they may never recover from. Do not try hiding from this reality. Then transform that devastation into fury. Get angry and stay angry until we fix this. Life will carry on for us not directly affected by the massacre, but we cannot let our collective memory fade as time goes on like we’ve done with every school shooting. Forget about today’s new Depp v. Heard headlines and dwell on the fact that our children are not safe when we send them to school. No, we don’t need armed teachers. No, we don’t need more onsite resource officers. We don’t need to weaponize our schools which, for the most part, will only further disparage and penalize our historically marginalized students. And the truth is, I don’t know what the absolute fix is, but we can at least look at the data to support and propose a viable solution. 

We have more guns in the US than we do people. Think about that for a minute. Really think about that. 

There are 334 million people in the US, and we have more guns in this nation, a nation at the precipice of emotional and mental ruin, than we do people. We have the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. We have the highest rate of mass shootings in the world. Even for the second amendment evangelicals, the correlation should be clear. From our constitution, we have somehow extrapolated the skewed interpretation of unfettered access to firearms, rejecting common sense gun laws, time and time again.

Grab the hammer. 

Turn off the lights. 

Huddle up the children and stay quiet. 

Beyond the stats, there’s no need to consult the experts—just ask the teachers, parents and sensible Americans, uninfluenced by the ever growing far right propaganda: Do you think someone capable of this should have access to guns? When the Uvalde shooting took place, there was only one early-release day left in my son’s school year and, as I’m sure many parents in US had done after the news broke, I grappled with the idea of sending him to school for those five hours to enjoy a pizza party and a day of planned activities. Only to return next fall, Summer has momentarily rescued us from this fear. 

27. This is the 27th school shooting with injuries or deaths in the US this year and it is only May. Georgia Representative Majorie Taylor Greene was quick to assert that Americans need her god and to bring “prayer in our public schools” and blamed the “state of mental health today”. Prayers have not been working out well for us, Representative Greene—the time for thoughts and prayers is over. However, Representative Greene and I can agree on one thing: the mental health of our children is imperative. But far right representatives like Greene have tried abolishing social-emotional learning from our classrooms with outlandish accusations of it being Critical Race Theory. It is fantastical how this brand of conservatives makes mental health an integral part of their argument when mass shootings occur or when the politicization of science was exacerbated by a very real pandemic, but are proponents for the defunding of budgets for mental health services.

If we were to stop measuring the success of our nation by GDP, and instead use these heinous acts that keep happening and the subsequent health of our minds and hearts as a metric, we would conclude this country is in shambles. As they have done in the past, Republicans’ response to this tragedy has been to not politicize it, but when common sense- supported by facts and data- points to bad laws and politics, there is no way around doing so. Ultimately, most of us can agree that we want to keep our children safe. So, like Senator Chris Murphy has pleaded, I am begging Republicans to practice the degree of humility needed to consider the possibility that their convictions about the uncontrolled distribution of guns may be wrong. If “guns don’t kill people” perhaps it is access to guns that do. Common sense gun laws do not infringe on our second amendment right to bear arms; common sense gun laws would simply help keep deadly firearms out of the hands of people capable of murdering children and teachers.

Morgan Stewart

About Morgan Stewart

Morgan was the K-5 special education teacher at Centennial Elementary in Nampa School District. She is from Tampa, Florida and lived in Boise for about 11 years. She now works as a digital producer for an educational publishing company.

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