OP-ED | Students Need To Feel Safe
Since the Oxford High School shooting in Michigan, thousands of students in Connecticut have been terrorized by threats of violence in school, leading to lockdowns, school closures and widespread student absences across the state, including in Ansonia, Danbury, Farmington, Greenwich, Hamden, Manchester, New Haven, Norwalk and Norwich. The fear and anxiety was made even worse by the school shooting threats that were rampant on Tik Tok last week.
Although investigations have determined an absence of credible threats, the damage to student and teacher emotional well-being, and disruptions to learning, are intolerable. Every threat is potentially another Sandy Hook, Columbine or Parkland. Regardless of whether the threat turns out to be real, the damage is done.
Students can’t learn, and teachers can’t teach, if they don’t feel safe, and are not safe, in their schools.
School district superintendents and boards of education need to do more than lockdown drills and hardening schools to protect students, teachers and staff from the threat of gun violence. They need to address a root cause of school shootings: the irresponsible behavior of gun owners who don’t securely store their firearms.
Two-thirds of school shooters obtain the gun they used from their home or the home of a relative. Without unsupervised access to his mother’s assault rifle, 20 Sandy Hook School first-graders and six educators would still be alive.
As credible messengers, school superintendents and boards of education should use their authority and direct lines of communication to parents to educate them about the urgency of safe firearm storage and safe storage laws, and the legal consequences of not securing their firearms.
Far too many gun owners are creating dangerous conditions that put their children, their children’s friends and their children’s classmates at grave risk. Some 1 million students ages 12 to 18 report having access to a loaded gun without adult permission. Nationwide, 4 in 10 parents incorrectly believe their children don’t know where their guns are kept, and 1 in 5 are contradicted by their children who said they handled their parents’ guns without the parent knowing. Nearly 5 million children live in homes with an unlocked, loaded firearm. Less than one-third of gun owners with children in the home store all of their guns unloaded and locked.
Responses from school superintendents asserting that “nothing is more important than the safety and security of our students and staff” need to be backed up with action. Communicating to parents about gun owners’ legal and moral obligation to securely store their firearms is a tangible step towards fulfilling their commitment to safety. It can’t happen soon enough, and you can help make it happen by adding your name to this CT Against Gun Violence petition calling on school district superintendents to #TalkAboutSafeGunStorage.
More guns locked up. Fewer lockdowns.
Jonathan Perloe is the director of communications for Connecticut Against Gun Violence.
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