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Columbia County Observer

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Some Things We Should Not Have To Discuss With Our Kids – Ever

Mass Shootings - composite image - mother talking with daughter - list of mass shootings

There are some things we should not have to discuss with our kids – ever.

My daughter will be 16 in less than two weeks. She’s a good kid and thankfully very healthy.

Sunday, August 4, was one of the hardest days we have had. We tried to process the atrocity of three mass shootings in 24 hours.

I never thought she’d ask me if I had an escape plan at work, as universities too are the sites of mass shootings. She said that she thinks of how she will escape every time she goes into a public place — the mall, a restaurant, the movie theater. She attends Florida Virtual School and she has been spared the fear of getting shot at school, but she worries about her friends who attend public schools who do not have that luxury. She really wants to get a job when she is 16, but is concerned that anywhere she can be a target.

My heart breaks for the many victims of last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso, Dayton, and Chicago. It also breaks that our future - our kids - are growing up spending time identifying escape plans and evaluating whether it is safe to go out.

Gun control is a complex topic, the complexity of which my daughter recognizes given the differences between mass shootings, accidental killings, suicides, and other types of gun-related incidents. However, she cannot fathom why we would not have a ban on assault weapons.

I explained to her that the 1994 assault weapon ban had some significant loopholes and experts agreed that it probably did save lives. That ban expired in 2004.

Determining exactly how much effect a law has is tricky, as crime rates fluctuate for many reasons unrelated to law.

Marjory-Stoneman-mass shooting - grief
                                 Photo: Marjory Stoneman Massacre

Mass shootings represent a fairly small percentage of overall gun-related injuries and fatalities. Nevertheless, it is quite possible to fix the loopholes in the 1994 law, which featured complicated descriptions of which firearms were actually prohibited, grandfathered-in weapons, and magazines that were manufactured before the law took effect.  A new version might be more effective.

In Florida, where we live, Republican Attorney General Allison Moody has asked the State Supreme Court to block a ballot initiative to put an assault weapons ban before voters in 2020. This is despite the fact that the group Ban Assault Weapons Now (BAWN) has already gathered 99,000 certified signatures, which is enough to trigger an automatic legal review of the amendment by the court.

Attorney General Moody claims the definition of an assault weapon is too broad and the requirement that existing owners register their weapons within one year is misleading. What seems to really be the case is that Moody is another Florida NRA shill.

Florida has seen some of the most horrendous mass shootings, including 49 dead and 53 injured at Pulse Nightclub in 2016, and 17 dead and 17 wounded at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.

So, what do we tell our kids?

Certainly not to hope and pray: that has been a dismal failure.

Ideally, not how to harden themselves as targets: that’s a world none of us want to live in.

I’m not sure I’ve got it all right, but I prefer to emphasize treating all people with dignity and respect, volunteering to collect signatures on petitions, calling members of Congress and the Attorney General’s Office, rallying peers to support events and efforts to raise awareness and educate people on the facts about gun-related crime and mass shootings, and getting people out to vote.

Floridians interested in helping get signatures for the assault weapons ban to be on the ballot can find more information at https://bawnfl.org/amendment.html

You can help fix this bloody problem no matter where you live. Please see organizations that work nationally, such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Guns Down America, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Giffords Courage to Fight Gun Violence, and more.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

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