There is a time to sit back and listen. And for a lot of us, the time to listen was immediately after the shootings at the Sandy Hook School in Newton, Connecticut. The shootings there were so painful, the solutions so seemingly elusive and the timing as the holidays were unfolding was so wrenching, it wasn’t a time to lash out. It was a time to reflect and to resolve that Newton, Connecticut would be remembered as the last school massacre on American soil. The 9/11 attacks may have been more startling because it was a new kind of attack and the number of casualties may have been far greater but the searing pain and vulnerability we felt as teachers and students were gunned down just over 10 days before Christmas, was the same.
The NRA’s proposal to place armed officers at every school or to train teachers to use a gun offended many Moms and teachers who were reeling in pain and who are anti-gun to begin with. Designed to send the message that the NRA is willing to protect students and their teachers, the message not only missed on timing, it missed on substance, too. But, I wonder if the reaction was more a response to the messenger than the message? After all, a lot of Americans, rightly or wrongly, didn’t want to hear from the NRA on the heels of an incident like this one. That doesn’t mean the NRA isn’t a valid voice on 2nd Amendment rights or the effectiveness of an assault weapons ban. It’s just that most Americans view the NRA as the protector of 2nd Amendment rights, at all costs. At the end of the day, it isn’t the gun that does the killing but hearing from the pro-gun lobby at that particular juncture, may not have been what a lot of American Moms wanted at that moment.
The conversation around school shootings needs to be framed in a way that removes fear but doesn’t add to it. The key is going to have to be who it is that is asked to protect our country’s school kids, who represent, more than anything else, what is still good and pure about this country. American Moms want to make sure they are safe from, not just violence, but also from the culture of fear that precedes and follows a horrific shooting like this one.
Why not turn to Military Moms? Women who know how to use a gun but aren’t posting pictures of themselves on YouTube with the assault weapons they got for Christmas just weeks after a national tragedy. Women who’ve got kids in our schools. Instead of training teachers to fire a gun, let’s turn to the wives and mothers in our country who have served in the military and know when not to fire one.
Let’s get them together with school administrators and parents to come up with local solutions. Let’s hear their views on the questions of an assault weapons ban and the impact that violence in our culture may be having on boys. Let’s tap into their experience by having them play a role as security guards who are dressed in civilian clothing and stationed on our playgrounds. Whether they are armed or not, they will help to soothe frayed nerves while the bigger picture question of societal ills and gun laws are settled. If we get the word out that Military Moms are helping our schools, a shooter won’t necessarily know who they are or whether they are even there. But like Air Marshalls, these Military Moms in our Schools will know the warning signs and most important, how to respond and when. Let’s find those women who joined the military, not because they like conflict or war, but because they see themselves as protectors.
What a timely gesture to our women in the military that, while budget cuts are a harsh reality, we respect your service and skills. We respect the interruption your deployment created in your lives as wives and mothers. Let’s figure out a way to hire these women to work in their home towns. Let’s help them reconnect with their families and their communities. And let’s ask Moms across America to contribute what they can, whether it’s the price of your morning coffee or one day’s lunch money, so that the burden isn’t on the federal government, state or local district, at least not initially. Let’s use our power as Moms to short circuit the politicking around Sandy Hook that could go on for the next five years. And let’s not wait until someone gives us permission to protect our kids. Or the funds to do so. We need to say to the kids in Sandy Hook and at every other school across this country, we’re doing what we can right now so you feel safe when you go back to school next week.