I was that kid who loved going back to school. I still remember the excitement that came with that big day in September. The new clothes, the fresh smell of paper after cracking open a brand-new notebook and all those new books about new things that would fill my new backpack. Yep, a total nerd who was thrilled by the new beginning that a new school year provided. Yet in the age of mass shootings seemingly everywhere, school has become not a place where dreams are discovered and nurtured but a potential graveyard where learning is secondary to planning how to get out alive.

My heart went out to the children and families in a New York Times article about how the now-omnipresent active-shooter drills are scaring schoolchildren. But the power of the problem was brought home to me in an anguished email from Cheryl Anne Pelicano, a dear friend in South Carolina. Her daughter Rosey was just a baby in her arms when we met. Today, Rosey is a sophomore at Hillcrest High School in Simpsonville, S.C., which conducted an active-shooter drill on Tuesday.

Pelicano gave me permission to share her letter below. And what she wrote to me was a mother’s anguish, a grandmother’s fear for the future and a citizen’s demand for an end to the federal inaction on gun control and gun safety.

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I had a couple of thoughts I wanted to share, as you have the opportunity to get issues in front of the candidates, and this one is hitting really close to home for me.
Rosey is back in school for her Sophomore year. She will be fifteen on September 30th, just for context. Tuesday they had their first “Active Shooter Drill” and she came home with the news that the teachers have been instructed to barricade the doors, which is a step farther than last year’s directive. She was quiet Tuesday evening, but Regan is home, so I didn’t really notice that much, because Regan takes over all conversations when she’s around, and the big sister/little sister dynamic is pretty normal in our family. Wednesday morning, Rosey dragged her feet about going to school, and actually said, "I’m just not feeling this today.” I brushed it off, as her wishing she could stay home with Regan & me, classic FOMO.
Last night, she came in my room dressed in her outfit for today (she's not a leggings and oversized shirt kind of girl, she curates her cuteness) and she was excited about pairing some of the new pieces she got for back to school.
This morning when she came out for her smoothie, she was dressed in jeans and a sweater...not the dress/tights/Van’s combo she was sporting last evening, for approval. I asked her what happened to the outfit? She said, “I had a dream that there was a shooter and I wouldn’t be able to run in that outfit.”
… so, this brings me to the question for every candidate running for office in 2020 … What are we going to do about this? How are we going to heal a generation of kids who live in constant fear that they will be gunned down in the hallways, or the cafeteria, or the classroom of the place where we parents send them every day? Rosey is the fourth of four, and I have two 3 1/2 year old granddaughters, so far. What I have seen over the years is the disgraceful abdication of citizen safety in favor of the profits of an industry that does nothing but promote and profit from fear that rights are going to be taken away. What about Rosey’s right to wear her cute outfit, and feel safe in the halls of an institution whose first concern should be inspiring learning and excitement for the future, not how best to silently hide under a desk? How are we, as a society going to change this?
How is the next president going to bring this plague of violence to a screeching halt, so that kids can be safe in schools and the rights of all of us to live can be protected, through the ban of assault weapons and the implementation of universal background checks? Who is going to have the political courage to issue an Executive Order that protects our children?
There will never be another generation that has been as terrorized by gun violence through their formative years as Rosey’s generation IF someone shows the courage to protect our kids … the future.
The mental health challenges for these kids are going largely unaddressed, and I am sure that what Rosey exhibits, in a quiet, if not silent manner is a form of traumatic stress waiting to become post traumatic stress, as she anxiously awaits what probably feels inevitable, a gunman in the halls of Hillcrest High School, in Simpsonville SC. Why should any child feel as though they will be spared from random gun violence?
There are days when I cannot even fathom what the collective “we” should care about, because we have devolved so far into the abyss of the Trump Toxicity, kids in cages, mass shootings every week, Charlottesville, the wall, the corruption writ large. I listen to the candidates and wonder how anyone can possibly get us out of this hole. I am increasingly discouraged by the disgusting conduct of the Senate Majority Leader and how his remaining in office will tie the hands of any Democratic President to exact any change at all.
What are we going to do? Please use your access to get answers to this fundamental question; what is the plan to address the gun violence epidemic during the first 100 days? We need a policy that is clear and fearless, and I want to know who among the candidates is determined to save our children.

The following Democratic presidential candidates have publicly released plans addressing gun control/safety: Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.); South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro;, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.); former congressman Beto O’Rourke (Tex.); Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.); and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Booker, Castro, Harris, Klobuchar, Warren and O’Rourke promise executive action. Former vice president Joe Biden has not yet released a specific gun-control plan but has revealed his thinking in his education policy.

If Democrats retake the White House, gun control will be a top priority. And defeating their efforts will be the priority for the National Rifle Association. But there’s a movement of young people like the Parkland kids and mothers like Pelicano who have had enough. No right is absolute, and it’s about time that notion apply fully to the right to bear arms.

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