“We’re playing the odds.”
“A lot of kids have been killed; why do people think that’s OK?”
“You can’t really practice for a school shooting.”
“All 2,000 kids aren’t going to get out safely. We know some will die; why is that all right?”
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These are the comments I heard from my children after the massacre in Florida this past week. When they were younger, we tried to shield them from some of the horrific details of school shootings. But now, at the ages of 14, 12 and 10, there’s no escape. They know what happened. They know children are dying in our schools at the hands of people armed with military-style killing machines.
Sure, our schools work to prepare kids in the event of an active shooter. But you can’t thoroughly prepare for the chaos that ensues in this type of a situation. They feel like sitting ducks hoping their school won’t be the next one, or if it is, that they will “beat the odds” and make it through alive. And then when it happens somewhere, they wonder why the adults haven’t done something to stop it from happening again.
On Thursday evening, my 14-year-old started talking about gun violence and the school shootings. With tears welling in her eyes, she stated: “It’s like it’s open season on kids.”
Did you fully process that? “It’s open season on kids.” This is how it feels to our children. They see this happening. They see kids being hunted down and slaughtered and then we, the adults, do nothing. Why have we let the killing of children become acceptable?
Are we not aware of how this impacts the psyches of our children? Apart from those who are lost in the massacre, we have survivors who are traumatized by the horrific scene they have witnessed.
Beyond that, all around the nation, we leave our children to wonder if their school will be next, and if they’ll be able to “run, hide and fight” well enough to survive the shooter among them. They live in this extreme fear because we haven’t taken action — there’s always another one. We have reduced them to feeling as if they are targets, fearing they’ll become the next statistic.
Our children are not all right with this. They endure peer pressure, ultra-competitive environments, bullying and the challenges of an ever-more complex digital world. We ask them to navigate all these issues and school shootings.
As adults, we could have great impact in making our schools safer from this carnage, yet the best we have done is advise them to run in a zig-zag pattern or lay motionless — hoping they’ll blend in with their lifeless peers who weren’t so lucky.
This all strikes our children as irresponsible and uncaring. So, no, the children are not all right with the environment we have created.
As a legislator in the Kansas House, I have seen the stranglehold of the National Rifle Association on many of my colleagues. Some of them fear getting a low rating. Others fear they’ll stop receiving donations if they vote against the NRA’s interests.
It’s time we all recognize that the NRA of yesteryear is gone. The organization I grew up with that used to promote safety and enjoying the sportsmanship of hunting is no more. Today’s NRA is a marketing organization focused on driving profit. They peddle patriotic propaganda to increase the fervor for their products while spending millions influencing those who shape our laws.
And here’s the deal: Those of us who want the laws to change aren’t talking about “taking away our guns.” We just want some common-sense approaches to our laws.
I’ve been told that standing up against gun violence and fighting for safe schools could end my legislative career — because the NRA will target me. If that’s the case, so be it. I care more about saving the lives of children — mine and yours.
Making the changes that are needed will require strong public outcry. If you haven’t gotten involved yet, don’t wait for “the next one.” Moms Demand Action is a bipartisan, grassroots organization of parents working for common sense gun laws. In response to this latest shooting, the group will be meeting this Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7 pm at the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Church located at 9400 Pflumm Road in Lenexa.
I will be there. I hope you will join in as well.
Every time there is another school shooting, I find myself hugging my kids a little tighter. I’m guessing many parents out there do the same. But we must come to the realization that just like thoughts and prayers, hugs will do nothing to prevent it from happening again.
Cindy Holscher represents District 16 in the Kansas House of Representatives.