Rachel Salmon is a high school math teacher in Pennsylvania who was once a firearms dealer. In this post she shares her unique perspective on school safety and gun control on a day when students at schools around the country are staging a walkout for 17 minutes to protest gun violence.
The 17-minute march comes one month after a gunman fatally shot 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., an event that has sparked student activism unprecedented in recent years. Other protests are being organized, as well, including a march later this month called by survivors of that shooting.
Here’s Salmon’s view of what needs to be done to make schools safe for kids.
By Rachel Salmon
Growing up, guns were in my house as long as I can remember. My father was a licensed firearms dealer, one of the largest on the East Coast at one point. Some days, you would have never known there was a gun in the house. Other days, there would be piles of them in our entryway while he unpacked from a show. For years, this was my normal life, and since I had no interest in guns, I just ignored it all.
I continued to ignore it all until my father suddenly died of a heart attack. I became the person responsible for the thousands of firearms in his inventory, and I had to learn all about guns, gun laws and the gun community.
As a licensed firearms dealer, I was one of the people who signed off on a gun sale. I was fortunate to have the flexibility in my life at the time to take care of this overwhelming task. I was in the process of earning a degree in education to become a math teacher. My goal was to sell off the inventory by the time I finished my student teaching.
I encountered some amazing people with big hearts who helped me out through the process of taking inventory and preparing everything to be sold. These were normal people who genuinely enjoyed being able to blow stuff up with a machine gun safely in the middle of a giant, empty farm.
I tried it myself and definitely understand the adrenaline rush, but it’s not my kind of hobby. These people are responsible gun owners who know their guns, understand the laws, and take gun safety extremely seriously.
I also met people who attempted to buy a firearm without knowing anything at all about guns. I spent three years selling off the inventory and while I did see there are many great people that enjoy firearms, there is not enough being done to ensure that the people buying them should really have them.
There are gun laws that aren’t being enforced, and that needs to change. The process for an individual with no record to buy a rifle (including an AR-15) is way too easy. You should have to take a class, pass a test and have written references to be allowed to buy a gun. If you’re a responsible gun owner, this is not a lot to ask.
I saw a whole lot of stupid when I sold guns. People asked me all the time why I didn’t keep my dad’s business and make more money than I do as a teacher. I was not comfortable handing over firearms to people who had to do so little to get them.
I have a number of friends who are pro-Second Amendment. Since the shooting deaths of 17 people at a South Florida high school on Feb. 14, I have seen headlines suggesting that we should arm teachers and install metal detectors and bulletproof glass. I have also heard the opinion that there is simply no way to prevent mass shootings.
These ideas don’t consider the financial burden schools are already facing or the substantial amount of training required to shoot a desired target in a building full of children running for their lives. That training could also never mentally prepare a teacher to possibly shoot and kill a student.
I also have friends who want gun control. I have seen articles posted with incorrect and/or exaggerated information about people being able to easily buy fully automatic guns or the differences between different types of guns, and little to no knowledge of the actual gun laws in the comments. We all need to do better with the information we spread.
Requiring more from people in order to buy guns, allowing more thorough background checks, and having a registration system for all firearms could prevent the decision to buy a gun from being an impulse. Taking a class might stop an accident or motivate someone to make sure their guns are properly locked up at home.
Things need to change, and it should come from both sides of the debate. The children who have been shot at for all these years will not be ignored. They will be old enough to vote soon, and may even run for office. Second Amendment advocates should contribute their knowledge of firearms, what a responsible gun owner can be and what they can do. They should get on board now while they can.
There is no way to prevent every single act of violence, just like we can’t entirely stop any form of crime. However, that does not mean that we shouldn’t try to prevent as many accidents, suicides and angry impulses as we can.
If we can prevent even one more tragedy, isn’t that worth it?