Fall is here, and with it the return of another school year. The return of our students means we will again be lucky enough to spend our days educating the next generation, seeing them learn new tools and skills, and watching their grins when they grasp a difficult task. The return of our students also means that between Safety Protocol testing, classroom work, projects, and homework assignments, we will be prepping for an active shooter scenario. Tragically, the return of another school year inevitably means the return of school shootings. It is not a question of if American students will die at the hands of gunmen this year; it is a question of when.
And yes, it could be in Vermont. Any illusion that Vermont is a bubble – immune from gun violence and the horrors of school shootings – was shattered earlier this year. On Feb. 15, 2018, Jack Sawyer was arrested and in a police interview outlined his detailed plan for shooting “as many as I can get” at Fair Haven Union High School.
A new “subject matter” has been added to our children’s curriculum. The possibility that they could be shot and killed is their everyday reality now. And it is not normal. Students in other industrialized countries don’t go to school fearing they will be shot. Teachers in the rest of the industrialized world don’t walk the halls looking for escape routes or hiding spots for their students.
Thankfully, Vermont’s elected officials reacted to the news of the closely averted Fair Haven school shooting, not just with prayers, but with action that will save lives. Gov. Phil Scott almost immediately outlined a package of common-sense gun violence prevention measures. Legislative leaders followed suit, taking testimony on those measures and ultimately passing the most comprehensive set of gun safety reforms the state has ever seen.
I’m an educator and a father. I am also a gun owner. And I fully support the common-sense gun safety measures that were passed. The gun lobby propaganda that scares people into believing that politicians want to take all of their guns away is just that – propaganda. The legislation passed will still allow me to keep all my guns. The legislation passed will enable me to take my rifle into the woods this fall and hunt. The legislation passed will also allow me to go to school and know that all of us in that building are a little bit safer. The legislation passed will allow me to send my children off to their schools knowing that they are a little bit safer.
It is only in America where politicians place their loyalty to the gun lobby over the safety of their constituents, where school shootings are an epidemic. To end this epidemic, politicians everywhere will need to follow Vermont’s lead. To help ensure that happens, I encourage Vermonters to get out to the polls on Election Day and support Gov. Scott and all legislators who voted for the gun safety bills. Supporting these candidates on Election Day will show politicians throughout the country that they can put the safety of their constituents first and not pay a political price at the ballot box.