“Hey mom, guess what I found out at school today?”
My hands tighten around the steering wheel. My 17-year-old doesn’t hey mom me much anymore. I glanced at her, raised my eyebrows listening for more.
“We have a new active shooter protocol”
I feel my heart cracking and my stomach sinking. If she can manage to go to school every morning wondering if this is the day she will be shot, I can manage to hear about it. I asked her what changed.
“Now, instead of sheltering in place, we are supposed to run as fast as we can away from the gunfire.”
I asked if they meet any place specific after they run.
“No, we just run.”
They are on their own, they just run. The adults in this country failed to take the simplest, most obvious measures to protect them, so when it happens, all they can do is run.
“Oh, and we are not allowed to leave if a fire alarm goes off unless it’s announced on the intercom it is a real fire or drill.”
There have been over 80 school shootings since my daughter entered kindergarten. She was 11 and still in elementary school when a shooter killed 20 first graders and 6 teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Columbine happened 2 years before she was born.
She has always gone to school under the shadow of school shootings. After Sandy Hook, I thought things would change. We wouldn’t, as a country, sit back and do nothing in the wake of the slaughter of first graders. We couldn’t. And yet we did.
Darrell Issa, my congressman, admits to taking almost 30,000 dollars from the NRA.* He has consistently voted against any restrictions on gun sales, and has even co-sponsored bills to loosen restrictions, which the majority of Californians oppose,** even those in his district.
I signed petitions, I wrote letters, I voted at the machine and with my wallet. A lot of us did. But the NRA’s wallet is bigger. Much, much bigger. We failed. I gave up.
And in giving up, I have failed my daughter. And I have failed all the students who go to school with the daily fear of “will it be me today.” I gave up, when I could have done so much more. My friends gave up when they could have done so much more. Most adults gave up when they could have done so much more. We failed the most basic task of parenting, at the most basic task of being moral human beings. We failed to protect them, when it was in our power to do so.
But it’s not too late. Because in walked the Parkland survivors who stood up and said “enough is enough!” Who used their 21st century electronic platforms to remind us of things that we already knew but refused to act on. They reminded us that it’s immoral to protect guns over children, that throwing our hands up and saying “but, the 2nd amendment” is bullshit. They inspired us to look into the issue and find out, according to federal court decisions, assault weapon bans are not unconstitutional. To search further and discover even Scalia, in the Heller decision, said, “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”***
They reminded us it’s not a zero-sum game. It is not a game at all.
But, even more than that, the Parkland survivors encouraged my daughter to take a stand, to advocate on behalf of herself and others. They reminded her and her generation of their power. They inspired her to follow a better example than mine, and to call bullshit on adults who are not living up to their responsibility to protect children.
She was the one who got up early on a Saturday to march in our local March for Our Lives, she bought the supplies and made the signs. She took the time to register people to vote, even though she won’t have that privilege until next year. She walked out of school to hear the names of 17 dead teenagers. She spent 6 minutes and 20 seconds to take on a burden that the Parkland community will bear always.
So, I’m on board, again. And, this time, I will do whatever is required of me to prevent this from happening again. But I’m going to follow the lead of the Parkland survivors, and my daughter, and her generation. Because they have proven we won’t live up to our responsibilities, and shown how, with our help, they can save lives.
Lead on. I have never been so hopeful. Or thankful.
© 2018 gigi quinn
*San Diego Tribune, 6/22/2016, ** Orange County Register, 1/10/2018, ***Time, 6/20/2016