On Not Talking about Guns

When you search for my kids school on Google or Youtube, the word “shooting” pops up as predictive text. No one was hurt, but a guy with an AR walked into my kids the year before my girl started going there. I started trembling a little the next day when we had a shooter drill at the school I was teaching at, that we were just being overly-cautious and active shooter drills were just a waste of instructional time. I could no longer pretend this was a thing that happened at other places. The traffic was routed around the school and right past my house. School shootings were a thing that happened to me.

A few days after Sandy Hook a kid drove through the parking lot off to Christmas break with a buddy of his in the back holding paintball gun. I had my phone out to call 911 but thankfully realized it was a false alarm. High school boys with paint ball guns needed to be seen as deadly until proven otherwise. This was the reality we lived in.

An Elementary School, A concert, a night club, a church. These are the places that shootings happen sometimes here in the united states. And I don’t know what to say about that. I don’t know what to say to my kids who report that there was a tricky game their school played where they pretended to hide from a bad guy. Do I tell them good job? Do I tell them that a bad guy did come to their school but their teachers were very brave and very smart? Do I protect their innocence or do I give them all the information and extra tips just in case this is information they might need one of these days? Information they might need to keep them alive. I don’t know what to say when they get into my car and report an active shooter drill, so I just ask what they think about it and grip the wheel so they can’t see my hands shake. I remind myself that this will probably never happen. This is only a drill.

I know for a fact that the church I attend has an active shooter plan. An active shooter plan is something churches now have to have. Should I learn that in seminary? Or is that more of an on the job training situation. This is a question I now have.

We don’t have alien abduction drills. There is no legal requirement to have escaped and rabid tigers roaming through the school. We don’t have drills for thing that will not happen. We only have drills and plans for things that sometimes do happen, even if they probably won’t. My kids live in a world where sometimes people take really big guns and shoot other people. Where people go to places like churches and schools on purpose, for maximum impact. I don’t know how to parent through that. I should not have to know how to parent around a society that values rights to weapons more than lives of people in church or school.

I am not totally anti-gun. While I would never freeze my butt off in a deer blind waiting for my chance, I will happily eat all the venison sausage those hunters are willing to share with me. I understand that responsible hunting is a valid hobby, one that sometimes feeds families and very often helps our eco-systems. I grew up across the highway from a metro-park, one people were not allowed to hunt in. Occasionally emaciated dear would cross all of those lanes to eat my mom’s bushes. The park would later decide to open certain days to bow hunters. It was the most humane decision for everything involved. The deer don’t come starving to eat the grass off of the neighborhood lawns anymore. Their babies are healthier. We need hunters. I am not anti-hunting rifle.

I don’t know how I feel about hand guns. I personally will not have one. We will not have that in our house, and I used to say that I would never allow my child to be in a house with a hand gun. But that was before a good friend invited me to try to pull the trigger on his empty one, showed me how hard it would be, showed me where he kept it and how it was locked up. While I personally would not make the decision to have a gun in my house, I understand his decision. My cousin married a woman who became a police officer. She carries. When they drive across the country to come to the cabin, she has a gun that she either secures in her car or in her room when she gets there. I don’t have a problem with that. She knows what she is doing and has talked to me about guns when I asked. I know enough about hand guns to know I don’t want one, but not enough to know whether or not I should advocate that others not have one.

I do know that no one should have access to an AR 15….I do know that it is disgusting that we outlawed automatic weapons, but then ruled an apparatus that turns semi into fully technically legal because bump-stocks don’t change the inside of a gun, even if they do change the functionality of it. People died from that technicality. Bump stocks are legal, and being sold, and one congress person will even buy you one he believes in them so much.

As a country we have decided that we care more about people being allowed to by very lethal guns, than we do about keeping people safe, even children. Even children in schools and churches. I am learning that most of us don’t want to live in this world, the one we created.

I know that gun legislation is a heated topic. I know I don’t know everything there is to know about weapons. But I know enough to know that we have to start talking about it. We need to start talking about it in ways that are not “you hate freedom” and “you don’t care if kids die.” We need to start saying, what can we all agree on?

Most people in this country favor background checks, most people favor outlawing semi-automatic weapons, most people think hunters should get to keep their rifles, and while we don’t want to sit in a deer blind or skin a rabbit we respect people who do. Most people want to not have to worry about mass shootings. How do we get there? When can we start talking about that? 

I have had this in the que for more than a week. Since I have written it and not posted it another school shooting gone right has happened. The kids were locked down the man went away, everyone was safe. People were grateful for the shooter drills working. I am just still sad we need them. This doesn’t seem like the best solution.


When Will Fulton County Take Their Gun Problem Seriously?

Yesterday at Banneker High School in College Park Georgia, there was a shooting. I saw it across my Facebook feed and held my breath as I opened the article. Thankfully, it was a gun that went off on accident in a classroom. It hit a girl’s ankle and grazed another student. I opened the article holding my breath because I used to teach there, and some of my friends still do. I am grateful it was an accident that will have no life or death consequences. I wish it didn’t happen, but I cannot say I am surprised. I’ve known there were guns at Banneker High School since I taught there in 2007. Ten years ago I knew there was a problem, and so did everyone else. Fulton County was more interested in optics than actually safety

I worked at Banneker from the fall of 2007 through the spring of 2010, until I was surplussed to Tri-Cities high school in East Point. The entire time I was there, I knew kids were bringing guns to school. I knew they were and so did everyone else. Nothing was ever done.

Every few months or so an announcement would come on and we would be told to lock our doors. Don’t let anyone in, don’t let anyone out. The administration and the resource officers, and sometimes extra officers would open most of the lockers to see what was in them. They would come into certain classrooms and pat down kids. They would ask for bookbags to be opened and dumped out. And every single time, every single time they went looking for them, guns were found on school grounds. In lockers, in bookbags, guns were found in the school every year, multiple times a year.

In the spring of my first year I was walking to my car when the rush of students that was normally coming out of the building was suddenly rushing back onto me. All the kids who were normally running out of the school were suddenly running back into it. The kids were screaming that there was a gun. The kids were insisting someone had a gun at the bus loop.

The next day the only people that were talking about this incident were the kids. No announcement, no letter home, no we are looking into it. Nothing. The official position of the school and Fulton County was that there was never any gun. No one who had the power to do anything about it, simply claimed the gun problem did not exist. Meanwhile everyone actually showing up in the school every day knew there was a problem.

I am saddened that there was an accident with a gun at Banneker. I am sad because this will yet again over shadow all the amazing work that is done at that school every day. People will shake their heads and blame the community that goes to the school. Why does this happen?

This happens, a gun goes off accidentally at a school because Fulton County Schools has ignored a problem everyone knew was going on for at least ten years. When I was teaching there, everyone in that building knew that sometimes kids brought guns to school, they found them in their lockers sometimes. But Fulton County preferred to lead with the test scores from the North side of the county, and claim lots of diversity by forgetting to mention how segregated the school system really is. Fulton county, who felt that metal detectors weren’t necessary, mostly by ignoring the rumors that everyone knew were true. A gun went off on accident in a classroom and no one is dead. Fulton County got lucky, but when will they take the problem seriously?