POLITICAL ROUNDUP: Tahlequah residents weigh in on gun debate after mass shootings

·4 min read

Jun. 4—Amy Batie, a third grade teacher at a Tahlequah elementary school, hopes recent shootings in Tulsa; Uvalde, Texas; and Buffalo, New York, bring more attention to gun violence.

"There is a hopelessness where our voices won't be heard because of the political sector in Oklahoma. It's starting to feel like the Wild West," said Batie, who also is founder of Rise Up, a local nonprofit that provides educational resources in African countries.

She said she has seen a number of her friends on Facebook say they are going to start taking their guns out wherever they go.

"That's not the America I want to live in. That's not freedom. That's a country run by tyranny," said Batie.

She is one of a number of area residents who weighed in following the recent mass shootings, with some calling for stricter gun laws, but others who believe that gun regulation might not make much difference.

Batie said that to curb violence, change must start locally, with individuals.

"Moms and dads need to stand up and say we can't take this anymore," she said.

As a teacher, she said she also is worried that the system isn't working. Every year, she goes through ALICE Safety Drills with her students. Because so many school shooters are young, she fears that they will understand school protocols after having gone through drills themselves when they were students.

"Any kid who is 18 has been through the training. Our windows aren't bulletproof. One shot would shatter a window. It wouldn't matter how many doors are locked. They all know we are supposed to turn off the lights and hide in a dark place. They know the training. Everyone knows the procedure, so how is it protecting us anymore?" asked Batie.

She also said that teachers shouldn't be allowed to carry guns.

"We didn't sign up to be cops. What if we unintentionally shot a child?"

Batie pointed out that teachers are also not trained to operate weapons during instances of panic, and she called on others to join the fight to stop mass shootings.

"We have to have a middle group of people that don't need to be a Democrat or Republican. We need people with common sense to stand up," said Batie. "Uvalde, that's Tahlequah in a nutshell. ... What happened there could happen here."

Shannon Grimes, chair of the Cherokee County Libertarian Party, said he isn't against enacting gun safety regulations, but he is worried that Americans and Oklahomans may preemptively sign up for regulations without thinking them through.

"I don't think that there is one solution. Anything that we decide should be thought out and deliberate, and we need to be cognizant of all the repercussions from the actions that will be taken," said Grimes.

He is worried that politicians who do not understand how guns operate will enact laws that don't adequately address public safety, and that those laws will impact other sectors of American life.

"I think that gun control, the debate of which comes up after every incident like this, wouldn't have made a big difference. I would say that in the case in Tulsa, a delay of access could have had a positive impact there, but it isn't certain.. In Texas, those were all legal. In many cases, gun controls don't address the issues," said Grimes.

Nancy Garber, a Tahlequah writer and former director of Communications and Marketing at Northeastern State University, said that she, like many, is in shock.

"My question is, who is going to step in to say enough is enough and start talking seriously about gun safety? Citizens must become more vocal. They must become activists and elect public officials to replace those who have failed to enact gun safety laws," she said.

Garber said that legislators have been tied to the gun lobby for so long that they forgot that public safety is their charge.

"Gun violence has become pandemic. In 2022, statistics are showing that easy access to guns is in direct proportion to the increase of gun violence and mass shootings. You have to ask yourself why a private citizen should be able to walk into a store and buy an AR-15 as this man did two hours before he shot up a (Tulsa) hospital," said Garber.

She also believes that promoting an increase in the number of guns carried by private citizens in public spaces does not promote safety.

"When everyone has the right to walk around with a gun, it's harder to distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys. It is time for gun safety legislation and to vote for individuals who will make it happen," she said.

In a recent press release, Chuck Hoskin, principal chief of Cherokee Nation, called on individuals to stand up to gun violence, though he did not give specific guidance on how they should approach the topic.

"Violence has visited too many communities across the United States, particularly as of late. In this country, we all share a responsibility for keeping each other safe and protecting our vulnerable. This is, in fact, the Cherokee way of thinking about the world we share. We must all do more in this country to meet these responsibilities," said Hoskin.