Predictably, elected officials from across the country are now rallying forward with plans to curb gun violence in the wake of last week’s tragedy in Connecticut.
While this knee-jerk reaction always happens following unspeakable incidents that seem so preventable, we are disgusted by legislators, from the president to governors to the municipal leaders in some cases, trying to secure political favor by assuring the public gun laws will be tightened to prevent situations like this from happening again.
In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley said this week he will likely introduce a new gun control package in next year’s legislative session, aiming to limit the types of guns allowed in the state and the ages of holders, restricting access to mentally-ill people and explore school safety mandates. O’Malley’s plan comes on the heels of President Obama announcing he wants to renew the federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004 because it was too watered down. All sides are getting involved, including the National Rifle Association, which said this week, “The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”
All of this dialogue is smart and important, but it’s clearly just an obvious reaction to what happened in Connecticut. Gun control was a minor issue in the presidential election and plays almost no part in state and local elections. To talk gun control now is fine, but let it be clear that it’s simple politics and reactive governing at its worst.
The fact is these politicians cannot ensure that incidents, such as what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and at Columbine in Colorado, will not happen again. Nobody can unfortunately, and that’s what is most disturbing. That’s why so many parents had a lump in their throats when they took their kids to school on Monday morning, the first school day after 26 people – including 20 children – were gunned down by a disturbed individual. The same struggles were felt by teachers far and wide.
However, what we can do and should do is make sure our schools the safest place possible for our children. That dialogue needs to unfold in every jurisdiction in this country. Is enough being done to protect the students in our classrooms?
In many cases, we believe security is not as tight as it should be. In many schools here and elsewhere, visitors can walk in the front door of the school and get access to classrooms with no trouble. That’s disturbing and must change, whether it’s through legislative action, school system mandates or individual school changes that perhaps could involve a designated individual being responsible for admitting guests at all times.
Recognizing the sensitivity involved with returning to school this week for students, teachers and parents, local law enforcement maintained a high profile at many schools this week. That cannot continue, however, without a new funding source or an official commitment made.
The discussions are just now beginning to address how to ensure our schools are safe for our children and teachers. These talks need to continue and be done at the hyper-local level and without politicians muddying the process with self-serving proclamations and promises that are unrealistic and simple political ploys. That was happening too much this week.
The real work on the frontlines has begun and we look forward to seeing what kind of changes will be taking place in our local schools in the near future.