From: Jerry Windley-Daoust
When I signed up to help organize next Saturday’s march and rally to end gun violence, I wasn’t fully aware of the depth of feeling among gun rights people. Over the past week or so, quite a few of them have volunteered to remedy that.
Some of those conversations have been pretty friendly. Others have been … well, a little testy. Let’s just say the words “hypocrite” and “anti-freedom liberal” have been tossed around a bit on our Facebook event page.
So, let me set the record straight about why I’m participating in the local March for Our Lives. It’s pretty simple: I’m the father of five kids in area schools, the husband of a teacher, and the son of a teacher — and I want my family to be safe.
More than that, I want all of us to be safe. While the March for Our Lives events that will take place around the world on March 24 were sparked by a school shooting, the fact is that about 33,000 Americans are killed by guns every year, including 1,300 kids.
Most of us in the Winona area haven’t directly experienced gun violence, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t affected. My kids, who range in age from eight to 17, have grown up with regular active shooter drills. My 11-year-old recently came home from school talking about being taught to throw things at an intruder — part of his ALICE training (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate). My eight-year-old has been well and truly terrified by all the talk of guns in schools, and my 17-year-old’s school (Cotter) is doing a day-long ALICE training that involves planning defense and escape scenarios in every classroom.
Meanwhile, our elected leaders talk about further “hardening” our schools, arming teachers, and training kids to be alert to signs of impending violence. They are, in the words of some, “our first line of defense.”
Let’s call it like it is. We’re now assuming our schools are potential war zones, and we’re training our students to be on the front lines.
How is militarizing our schools affecting our kids? It’s sure not helping their education. Nor does it help the 46 children and teens who are injured or killed in random gun violence every day.
“We are tired of hearing about school shootings,” Winona Senior High School student Jade Joswick said at the recent school walkout. “We are tired of sitting through drills that previous generations never had to sit through. We are tired of feeling unsafe.”
Her complaint doesn’t strike me as unreasonable. She’s absolutely right that it never used to be this way. If once upon a time kids and teachers went to school without worrying about being shot, there’s no reason we Americans can’t make that the case again.
My new gun rights friends have been educating me. They tell me that more laws won’t help. They tell me that the real problem is mental health care and the all-pervasive glorification of violence in the media. Or, alternatively, bad parenting.
I’m all on board with those as serious contributing factors that ought to be addressed. But you know what the problem is with those arguments? Gun violence is far more pervasive in the U.S. than any other developed country in the world — not by a little, not by a lot, but by multiples. Your odds of being killed by a gun are eight times greater in the U.S. than in Canada, 27 times greater in the U.S. than in Britain, and about 96 times greater in the U.S. than in Japan — where, incidentally, gun ownership is legal but highly regulated.
So until someone demonstrates that Americans are affected by mental illness and media violence and bad parenting at similarly disproportionate rates, I’ve got to conclude that something else is up, and the most likely culprit is that we have fewer restrictions on owning a gun than we do on operating a car.
Look, to my friends who want to keep their guns: I hear you. You grew up with guns, and to you, they’re a tool and a source of personal security. So let’s figure out some meaningful, reasonable regulations that you can live with — and that allow our kids and teachers to go to school rather than a potential war zone.
But don’t tell me that gun regulations won’t work. We’ve tried it your way for too long, and at too high a cost. It’s time that we tried living the way the rest of the world does — not as part of an anti-freedom agenda, but to save the lives of our kids.
And to those who agree that something needs to change, but who are afraid of controversy — for heaven’s sake, come join us on Saturday. It’s your presence that’s really going to make a difference.
We’ll be marching in St. Paul in the morning; contact the Lutheran Campus Center to register for the bus. Then we’ll be gathering at the Winona Senior High School at 4:30 to march to the Lake Park bandshell. People who can’t march can join us at the bandshell at 4:45 for a pre-rally solemn remembrance of the victims of gun violence, followed by a student-led rally at 5:30. We’ll be done by 6. You’ll find more information at winonaunited.wixsite.com/mysite-1 or at our Facebook event page.
Let’s come together to send a clear message to our elected leaders that it’s time to act, in a real and meaningful way, to reduce gun violence in this country … for the sake of our kids.