As I stood at the front door waving goodbye to my son, I couldn’t help but wrestle with the feeling that I was sending him out into a world where I cannot keep him safe, not even in his elementary school.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the wake of that event, just as there seems to be with each incident of school violence (the lastest occurred just this week). Some have expressed a seemingly easy answer: to arm school personnel, with some even proposing to arm teachers. This argument gained momentum after the NRA called for equipping every school in the country with an armed guard: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre said.
I couldn’t disagree more.
Guns don’t belong in schools.
Guns don’t belong near schools.
And while I don’t know the solution, I know what it is not. Shaping the response to school violence around the idea of more guns isn’t just counterintuitive, it’s neglecting to recognize the real roots of the problem: our country’s unwillingness to provide the mental health care its citizens need, and a glorification of violence in the media, video games, and other forms of entertainment.
When I read yesterday that a school district in Northwest Ohio had approved a plan to arm janitors, I couldn’t help but think of my own son’s school. How would I feel if this plan were enacted here? Safer? I doubt it.
Here’s why: I believe that arming personnel creates a false sense of security. It’s an easy fix to a problem that is anything but easy to fix.
Until we address the complex issues of mental illness, a culture that sees violence as entertainment, and give families the tools they need to get help for their troubled children, we won’t have moved forward in finding the many— not single— solutions to this problem.
Until then, I’ll struggle each day to say goodbye to my children as they head out to school, and I’ll mourn the loss of security and innocence that they deserve. I’ll continue to have the same worries as always— Will they remember to buckle? Look both ways when they cross the street?— but to these I’ve added another, unthinkable fear.
Each day as I say goodbye, I send them off with a silent wish: that by the time they’re parents themselves, they won’t know my fear.
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