By Mary McPhail Gray
NVW Board Chair
“We don’t get that regular teenage life anymore. It just doesn’t exist,” declared a Florida Parkland student.
“When I think about getting ready for school,” said a student in a church meeting for youth, “I choose the shoes I put on — the better to run in.”
Is this the world of school we want our youth to have?
In a nation whose national leaders are not able to seriously debate and come to consensus about how to reduce the dangers posed by the proliferation of assault-type weapons, our youth are watching us. And they are applauding the legislature and the governor of Florida who made some brave starts.
The national polls of gun owners show a preponderance of support for responsible background checks, raising the age at which one can purchase a firearm, and reducing access in the market to assault weapons. Gun owners who hunt responsibly, enjoy controlled target practice, and believe that their livestock and homes may be safer if there is a rifle in the home — are not apt to agree with the NRA manifesto that any gun control regulation essentially limits our individual freedoms. In fact, most observers believe that this position insults the intelligence of our citizens and the strengths of our democratic processes.
We did not say that introducing seat belt legislation started us down a road of limiting drivers’ freedom to drive where they wanted or purchase the vehicles they desired. Instead, we stressed the public safety costs of traffic accidents against the regulation that asked car manufacturers to incur the costs of adding seat belts in all cars. And then we gradually equipped public safety officers with the laws to fine drivers who did not use their seat belts, and we have accumulated a rich database of lives saved by this intervention that some might say “limited our personal freedoms.”
And speaking of driving — before one acquires a license to drive there are state-sponsored exams and periodic renewal requirements to make certain the driver is still knowledgeable and safe on the road. You cannot walk into a store and purchase a driver’s license — and yet a vehicle could be described as a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands.
So what is it about guns? All this misinterpretation of the Second Amendment comes screaming out in rhetoric from those who argue gun control is a violation of our freedoms, rather than a historic regulation — written for its point in time — that maintaining a militia for the safety of citizens was a right, in an era where there was not a national military system.
Now we have the most effective military system in the world — and guns are under the control of a system of safeguards and hierarchical regulations for training and deployment. There are remarkably few “mass murders” in the military — and officers are held accountable for the behavior of those under their command. No such system exists in civil society. Yet we sell weapons in civil society that are produced purely for the purpose of murdering our enemies. And they are too often in the hands of those in the throes of anger, isolation, and depression — the recipe for violent acts.
Now we have added to school administrators’ tasks — that of keeping their students safe from mass attacks. Become a lock-down campus — with security guards down every hall? How does learning occur under these conditions? Let’s be compassionate for our youth and their teachers and administrators and start the REAL process of discussion and decisions about access to weapons.
Our youth are watching.
Nonviolence Works has the largest staff of certified and licensed behavioral health providers in northern New Mexico. Reach us at 575-758-3297 or www.nonviolenceworks.us.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of NVW and can be reached at 575-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org