What does “it” mean?
It was hard listening to the remarks today from Parkland students who survived a school shooting a mere week ago; it was devastating listening to the father of one of those students who was murdered tell us that he visits his daughter in the cemetery now. It was also a heart crushing rebuke to hear from parents who had lost a child at Columbine (19 years ago) and Sandy Hook Elementary (5 years ago).
When everyone who wanted to speak was heard, Trump asked if there were any recommendations about what should be done. An adult (who was that guy?) was ready to jump in with a solution—more guns! Arm the cafeteria worker, volunteers or guidance counselors if teachers didn’t warm to the idea. That comment pretty much set the direction for subsequent discussion which included metal detectors in schools, mandatory lock down practices in schools—and more guns! with a side of better detection of mental health issues and services. Trump said a few words about background checks and bumpstocks.
Seventeen students and staff were not bludgeoned to death with a brick, or stabbed to death or run over. They were shot by an 18 year old with a legally purchased AR-15, a weapon developed and used by the military to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Guns clearly kill people and that is the problem.
A few of the people in the room did nibble around the 500 pound gun in the room, particularly Parkland student Samuel Zeif who seemed stunned that he could walk into a store and buy an AR because he just turned 18. He pointed out that Australia “made it stop”. But nobody, absolutely nobody, said guns and our gun policies are the problem, that the NRA is the problem, that spineless elected officials are the problem.
Keeping our children safe is about more than making schools safe for our children
The demand from these students and parents was to make it stop, to make schools safe places for children. There was another group in the room that also included students, parents and school administrators. They were from a southeastern Washington DC school district and they too spoke about the toll that shootings have taken on their children. Students in that district had also been shot and had also died, but not in mass shootings and not in the schools themselves. These students had been shot on the way to school or on the way to extra-curricular activities, or home. These students, families and administrators also happen to be African American.
There has been no coverage of these voices on the news today about the White House event. One father spoke about his son 16 year old Thurgood Marshall Academy student Zaire Kelly, a high school senior and aspiring chemist who was shot confronting a robber on his way home. Zaire was one of six young people age 16 and 17 who were slain in DC in 2017.
These individuals who spoke on behalf of their community eloquently and movingly attempted to broaden the conversation to the safety of all children in their homes and communities, not only in schools.
The mainstream media has not acknowledged the essential place that communities of color have in the conversation about school shootings and guns. The Parkland students have received two million dollars in donations to advance the actions they have planned in the upcoming months. I hope these students understand the importance of reaching out to grieving parents and friends in the African American and Latino communities and poor communities whose children are picked off one or two at a time, but with an equally devastating effect.
I believe that the Parkland students can understand that all children deserve to be safe from gun violence. If they are indeed safe, that means their schools are safe too.