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  • Jan Flynn

Who’s In Charge Here?

On Saturday, a wave of sanity swept across the USA.

It was inspired by kids. It was about saving kids. And it was, largely, led by kids.

Elsa Hoppenworth, a 16-year-old junior at West Anchorage High School, in Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday.

For at least one day, the nation’s attention was wrested away from the endless, nauseating shenanigans of the Current Occupant. For at least one day, hundreds of thousands of people in cities all over the US — and, in fact, all over the world — took to the streets in response to the epidemic of gun violence.

(Sydney, Australia)

In Napa, California, I wedged myself into a crowded auditorium to attend a pre-march town hall meeting. Our congressman, Mike Thompson, long a leading advocate for commonsense gun control, was there, along with a panel of community leaders. The panel members spoke, and the audience spoke back, and we all rose to our feet to cheer statements that are so clearly obvious it’s astonishing there could be any debate:

  1. Military-grade assault rifles do not belong in the hands of private citizens, any more than do armored tanks or rocket launchers.

  2. Nobody needs an AR-15 to hunt deer, or to defend their home.

  3. Before purchasing a gun, anywhere and from anyone, a person should have to pass a background check.

  4. Nobody should be able to walk into a gun show and walk out ten minutes later in possession of a deadly weapon.

  5. Nobody should be able to order an assault weapon online, nor the components to make one.

  6. Nobody should be able to get their hands on after-market accessories, like bump stocks, to convert conventional guns into automatic weapons.

What’s so hard about that?

There were students from the middle school where I work, and from the local high school, in that auditorium and at that demonstration. They stood at the microphones to say that they don’t feel safe at school, and that is an unacceptable situation, and they demand that it changes. Many of my coworkers — teachers, administrators, counselors — were in the crowd cheering the kids on, and not only out of a sense of pride: we know we’re in the line of fire too when there’s a school shooting.

And no, I don’t want to carry a gun at school. I do not for the life of me, literally, see how a campus bristling with weapons contributes to an atmosphere of safety and learning. Not to mention how awkward parent-teacher conferences would be.

As one of the panelists wisely said, we don’t need to harden our schools; we need to soften them. We need to create safe havens, where troubled kids aren’t isolated and where they have the resources they need to keep them from going over the edge. We need to foster open, inclusive lines of communication so that when students see or hear something disturbing, they know to speak, and they know who to speak to, and they feel confident there will be effective action on the part of the adults in charge.

I hope our putative leaders are paying attention. I hope they see that we’ve reached the tipping point, that we’ve collectively broken through the crust of benumbed horror that has accumulated since Columbine, and that we demand action. We demand change. We demand policies that make sense.

Listen up, Capitol Hill. Kids all over the country have this straight: why don’t you?

The answer to a bad guy with a gun is not a good guy with a gun: it’s a bad guy who can’t get a gun.

Like everyone else with a functioning conscience, I think the students in Parkland and elsewhere who are spearheading this movement are amazing and inspiring, and they give me great hope.

It’s not supposed to be their job. But we may be in better hands this way.

As always, your comments are sincerely sought and amply appreciated!


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