It was the first day of school, the very first day. When I sat down to dinner, I expected to hear my daughters’ happy jabber about their friends and teachers. I did not expect their excited exclamations to center on guns. But here we are.
“Mommy, you know what we’re supposed to do? We’re going to throw staplers at a shooter if one comes! That will confuse him, and his bullets will miss, and more people will get away!”
It was like a record screeching in my brain. What did I just hear? The room fell silent as I struggled to parse the reality that my children had apparently been told to act like Wile E. Coyote, or some other cute but deranged cartoon character who couldn’t die, in the face of a machine gun.
And my kids, being 10, thought that was a really nifty idea.
My kids don’t know what it means to die by gunshot. They don’t know what it means to die at all. They think they’re invincible because they’re babies, and they believe they should stand up and fight a shooter with school supplies because a trusted adult told them to.
Parents are well aware that we live in a time of mass shootings. We worry for our children in a way generations past never had to. Every drop-off, every kiss on the forehead and “Have a good day” becomes precious. We don’t fret day in and day out, but that undercurrent of unease stays with us throughout the day until our little ones are back home with us. We can only hope that, should something happen at school, our babies will be spared.
In Florida, some counties have implemented ALICE. It stands for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate,” an active-shooter civilian response training program used for police officers, businesses government officials and, of course, elementary school kids. Across the country, school districts are implementing all sorts of training and education for teachers and kids. All of them focus on how not to die in school. All of them place the responsibility for staying alive on the victims.
And what choice do we have? In a country where we can’t even consider gun regulation, we have to try secondary means to save lives. If we’re not going to do anything about gun control, we’re left with no choice but to train our children how to try not to get shot.
Part of that training is stand up to the machine gun and toss school supplies at it. Confuse the shooter.
What kind of David and Goliath game are we playing with my children?
While I understand that, in theory, someone could and maybe even should stand up and fight back to help others escape by creating confusion, distraction and stopping for even a few moments the course of those bullets, I don’t want that to be my children. I don’t want that to be anyone’s children. And how cynical of the adults to pass this idea down to them, these little humans whose closest idea of violent death comes from cartoons or video games — where the characters get to try again.
It’s been weeks now, and, honestly, I’m still enraged whenever I think about my kids gleefully grabbing an old textbook and tossing it at speeding bullets coming their way.
This is completely unacceptable. Not only because of the sheer ridiculousness of babies against AR-15s, but also on a level deeper than that. Look at how far we, as a nation, will go to avoid sorely needed gun control. We’re twisting ourselves in knots and forcing schools to pay for all this training to save our kids’ lives, just so we don’t have to contemplate legislation that would stop the problem at its root. This cannot stand.
At the very least, if we’re going to do this and pay people to train all the schools, we need to come up with something better than children throwing staplers at machine guns.
We are foisting so much responsibility on the shoulders of potential victims, some of whom are as young as 4. We’re coming up with every secondary solution possible, from federal money for guns in schools, to arming teachers, to bulletproof backpacks, to students triaging each other, to little kids tossing pencil sharpeners at live shooters. We are doing all this to avoid the primary solution: controlling access to guns.
We can teach our children how to run in zigzags and jump the fence during school hours, how to play dead and where the best hiding spots are, or we could solve the problem and ban guns.
Gun regulation is really our only solution here. We need to take the onus off the children just trying to get an education and also not die.
What happens when the bullets fly past the stapler and into my kid’s chest? What happens when it’s your child instead? When do we stop telling kids how to survive and start telling people not to shoot them — not with words but with laws? When do we put our legislation where our mouths are?
Why are our kids’ lives worth nothing to our country?