Students across the country are joining forces to protest gun violence. A national school walkout occurred at 10:00 a.m. in every American timezone on March 14, one month after the Parkland, FL, school shooting, and lasted for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 victims murdered.
Student protests manifested in myriad forms in more than 3,000 participating events. In DC, thousands of students rallied before the White House. In New York, thousands took to Lincoln Center, Trump Hotel, and Zuccotti Park, where Governor Cuomo participated in a student “die-in.” A rallying cry of “Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids did you kill today?” was heard from coast to coast.
Despite the fact that some students faced suspension for walkouts and others were offered in-school alternatives, the effort is the same: to call attention to how dangerous guns are, in schools and beyond. The deep irony here is President Trump’s favored solution of putting more guns in schools by arming teachers. This effort has yet to be implemented (and has Secretary of Education Betsy Devos scrambling), and armed teachers are already a problem.
For example: on the eve of the walkout, two instances of armed school officials gone awry occurred. First, three students in Northern California were injured when a teacher fired a semiautomatic handgun during a firearms safety course. The gun was fired at the ceiling and students were hit and harmed by falling debris. Separately, a Virginia middle school was subject to a gun scare at the hands of a school resource officer and police veteran. There were no injuries.
Today in US school shootings:
1. School Resource Officer Accidentally Fires Gun Inside Virginia School. https://t.co/rRCHVouUTH
2. Three students injured as California high school teacher fires gun during safety course. https://t.co/FLDB5pXA3M
– Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) March 14, 2018
These two incidents, while distinctly different from each other, illustrated the reality of guns: they are dangerous killing machines in any hands. For every instance like teachers in Texas being trained on gun safety, post-Parkland, there are instances like the February 28 shooting in Dalton, GA, where a teacher was arrested for firing his gun in school after barricading himself in his classroom. In a sense, you can’t have one without the other.
These situations highlight a few facts: few gun owners are trained on gun safety, the majority of Americans do own guns, and teachers by nature specialize in education not security, pointing to the resounding chorus of “I’m a teacher not a police officer.” and #ArmMeWith. Even in areas where teachers are equipped with guns, guns aren’t used, nor have there been enough instances to warrant such arms. This is the deep irony underscoring the walkouts.
The issue of guns in America is an ongoing problem with no easy solution. As students across the nation lead the fight in gun safety, their stomping grounds have very quickly become the uneasy metaphor for firearms safety as the supposedly safest places – schools – are becoming literal battlegrounds.