How many more students and teachers must die before lawmakers act to stop gun violence?
A school should be the safest place in any community. But because of the worsening gun violence epidemic in our nation, our reality is far from that.
As communities are rocked by brutal acts of gun violence day after day, we are constantly reminded that safe spaces for children no longer exist – not to celebrate, not to gather within our communities and not to learn.
On Monday, police say, a person armed with three guns shot and killed three children and three adults at a small Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee.
Fear of gun violence is now constant in schools
Young people and teachers live in constant fear of being shot in school. Educators and students routinely practice how to protect themselves if a murderer enters their classroom.
Rather than only focusing on inspiring the students sitting before them, teachers have to worry about who might walk through the door with a gun. Far too many parents have experienced the worst horrors imaginable and grieved the loss of their children. Many more have experienced the agony of texting "I love you" to their child while an active shooter roamed the hallways. And our students and educators alike have been traumatized by massacres that have killed their friends, classmates and students.
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Gun violence is now the leading cause of death among young people. Sadly, no corner of America is untouched by the trauma of gun violence. Marginalized communities and communities of color are bearing the brunt of this crisis. Educators, students and parents are exhausted and terrified.
How can we continue to live like this?
Student-led March For Our Lives is still working to stop violence
It has been five years since the horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which took the lives of 17 students and educators. Born out of the tragedy was March For Our Lives, the largest youth-led march in history and the start of a powerful movement led by students and young people to end gun violence in our country.
Five years since that first march, students, educators, parents, health care providers and more joined together to successfully pass more than 250 gun laws, proving that agreement on gun safety legislation is possible. That included breaking decades-long legislative gridlock to pass the single most important piece of federal gun legislation in three decades, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
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That was a good first step, and the new law will help save lives, but we cannot stop here. Young people and educators are still dying in schools. Parents continue to demand that lawmakers do more to end these massacres.
Educators and students will continue to stand together to advocate for effective gun safety legislation to save lives. We deserve to learn and teach in classrooms that are safe.
The majority of Americans support comprehensive gun safety measures. March For Our Lives’ polling shows that young people want comprehensive solutions to gun violence. Starting with the 2018 midterm elections, young people have been voting at the highest rates in American history and turning out in record numbers to vote for pro-reform candidates.
They were not alone: A recent National Education Association survey found that school safety was a top priority for parents and voters during the 2022 midterms. And that was true no matter the party affiliation.
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Throughout last week – the fifth anniversary of the March For Our Lives – students, educators and others have taken to the streets for rallies and lobby days at state capitols.
We are advocating for legislation that will ban assault weapons, close background check loopholes, require safe storage of firearms and other measures that will drastically reduce the number of children who are shot and killed each year.
We hope you will join us in this fight. The futures of our educators and children depend on it.
Becky Pringle is president of the National Education Association. David Hogg is co-founder of March For Our Lives and a survivor of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: School shootings terrorize students, communities. When will we act?