ARTICLE

Students, Families and Educators Should Lead the Way on the Gun Crisis

Educator Mica Pollock and her daughter Elea call for a legislative response to school shootings.

We are a mother and middle school daughter who are fed up with school shootings. 

We've watched American children, educators and families get slaughtered by guns for years. Florida's nightmare has been tallied as the 16th mass school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012. 
 
And now President Trump wants to arm educators to deal with the gun crisis?

More guns in schools won't help. Public health research clearly demonstrates that the more guns we have, the more people die by guns. The United States has 4.4 percent of the world's population, nearly half of the world's civilian-owned guns, and a shocking rate of gun deaths when compared to the rest of the world. In the United States, people can legally and easily walk into a store and buy a semiautomatic assault weapon. Adding more guns to school buildings will just raise the chances of accidents, altercations, injuries and deaths.

As the new #ArmMeWith campaign demonstrates, educators don't want to be armed with guns as a solution to the United States' gun crisis. They want more resources like time and counselors to support students' well-being. And they want the right to teach and learn safely in school-the right to stay alive in school.

As Minister Lynn Hopkins and several others have put it, we want to live in a country that loves its children more than its guns.
 
Students, families and educators are calling for common-sense gun laws to prevent school shootings. When a 20-year-old murdered 20 first-graders in Newtown, along with six school staff members, he used a semiautomatic gun legally bought by his mother. After these events, we kept thinking that Congress would ensure this would never happen again because the majority of the country supported sensible gun laws. Instead, Congress ensured that Americans would continue to have access to military-style weapons to use when they get upset. 

Students, families and educators protesting nationally are being quite clear: Nobody should be threatened by such weapons in our schools. No teacher or student signed up to be a human shield or gun-toting guard. They are showing up to learn and to teach. 

They're saying that a student has the right to feel safe going to school every morning. Every student has the right to an education and a future. 

They're saying that children, who will someday be in charge of the world, are more important than private citizens' ability to own military-style firearms.

That's why we are thrilled that students, families and educators are leading efforts to demand sensible gun legislation-not get armed as a "solution" to the gun crisis. 

Rapid actions since Parkland have demonstrated this simple priority. Students are protesting for gun control in Florida and nationwide. Students and allies are planning a national 17-minute walkout on March 14 and a D.C. "March for Our Lives" on March 24. Educators are planning a national day of action against gun violence April 20. Many students are planning to use that day for a national walkout, with some planning to march to legislators' and NRA offices. 

Any walkout or march should involve direct efforts to contact representatives, demand sensible legislation, get registered to vote and vote.

As a mother and daughter who spend our days in schools, we think students, families and educators should lead this effort to make legislators finally move on sensible gun control measures to promote school safety. We need to better regulate the millions of firearms already killing Americans routinely. It's time to protect ourselves by demanding that legislators pass sensible gun control and value children over guns. 

Pollock, an anthropologist, is Professor of Education Studies and Director of the Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment, and Teaching Excellence (CREATE) at the University of California, San Diego. Her newest book is Schooltalk: Rethinking What We Say About-and to-Students Every Day (The New Press).

Elea is an eighth-grader in San Diego, California. She prepared some of this argument for a debate in English class.