The Kids in America – Moms and Guns


Our US columnist Alison Hill has written a powerful and angry article about the recent school shooting in Florida and its impact on the schooling decisions for her young daughter. (Ed.)

A shiny new AR-15 emblazoned on the cover of a magazine, like some scantily clad hottie, to be ogled and admired. To be coveted by gun enthusiasts. To be purchased and used.

I had unintentionally strayed from the safe haven of women’s glossies into the killing corner of the bookstore – from Cosmopolitan and Glamour to gun porn. An entire section devoted to guns and hunting. I counted at least 30 publications specifically promoting guns and over 35 about killing animals. Lovely. This is America – or more precisely, a large part of it.

And why would someone want to buy one of these dangerous devices? Well I guess some guys (usually it’s men) like to play macho and shoot at targets with powerful weapons. They normally use them within the confines of a gun range, with safety precautions in place. And their targets are inanimate objects (we hope). Yes, it’s all fun and games until a teenager with mental health problems gets hold of one (legally) and starts shooting up real people.

It was 2 days after yet another mass shooting in the USA, and guns were on my mind. I picked up the AR-15 magazine feeling slightly nauseous. This was the weapon responsible for killing 17 people, 14 of them children, in a south Florida high school. I imagined blood dripping from the barrel. I saw blood on the hands of the manufacturers. I saw blood on the hands of those who promote them as casually as if they were toy bb guns.

As parents what chance do we have against so many gun fanatics and such a powerful gun lobby? I thought about those kids. What does it feel like to get shot? What’s it like to witness such horrors? What’s it like to lose a child to gun violence?

It was heartbreaking watching CNN footage of a distraught, grief stricken mother whose 14-year old daughter was killed in the Parkland shooting, pleading with Trump and his ilk to do something, ‘kids need safety now,’ she yelled through the microphone.

Indeed they do.

Kids start Kindergarten at 5 years old over here. I have a daughter who just turned five. What do I do now?

I’ve spent over 20 years in the United States and this latest shooting has affected me more than any other, probably because I have a school age child. I come from a small village in the mountains of north Wales and attended the tiny village school. An idyllic Shangri-La compared to the place I would be sending my own daughter.

Are kids safe at school in America or are we putting them into a possible war zone any given day?

We grew up with regular (or not so regular) fire drills. The new normal for kids over here, are school active shooter drills.

I’ve spoken about gun violence on BBC Radio Cymru countless times since 2000. I produced television talk shows in Denver, Colorado, on gun control and the aftermath of Columbine. I’ve met and spoken with several Columbine parents who lost their beloved children in that massacre. I was at the premiere of Bowling for Columbine, and interviewed filmmaker Michael Moore about the gun problem in America. It seems so long ago now. And how many mass shootings have occurred since then?

Here we are in 2018 talking about the same issues once again. I thought things would change after the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012, but no, even the deaths of 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 wasn’t enough to melt the hearts of the gun cartel.

We’re all too familiar with the problem now. None of us are surprised any more when it happens. But each time some of us get more sickened. And angry. I’m angry right now and so are many people in America. Our children deserve better than this.

But there is some hope – the kids in America are standing up and speaking out. They’re organizing and marching and challenging the status quo. They’ve become overnight gun control activists. They’ve started a movement. I’m impressed with our youth. This is unprecedented. And amazingly – they’re getting results.

They’ve had it with this madness. What a crazy situation in an otherwise stable, first world country. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is now a mass murder crime scene. It’s supposed to be a place where children are safely educated. This isn’t Syria for God’s sake. The floors of their classrooms are forever stained with the blood of their friends, their peers. I’d say hell yeah they’ve had enough. They’ll probably suffer from PTSD for the rest of their lives. Who knows when the nightmares will abate? They may never feel safe again in school.

On February 21st 2018, just one week after the shooting, the kids of Parkland held a massive rally on the steps of the Florida state capitol, and this is what some of them had to say:

Never again should students have to protest for their lives, never again should an innocent life be taken trying to gain an education.” Sarah Chadwick.

We’re coming after you, we’re coming after every single one of you, and demanding that you take action and demanding that you make a change.” Delaney Tarr.

“I will fight every single day and I know everyone else here will fight every single day for the rest of their lives to see sensible gun laws in this country and so that kids don’t have to fear going back to school.” Alfonso Calderon.

Students also walked out of classrooms in Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Kentucky, Arizona, Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC and descended on the nation’s capitol. And more school walkouts have been planned in the near future, one on the anniversary of the Columbine shootings.

They’ve been called frauds, accused of being actors, and some have even received death threats for their activism – for merely exercising their 1st Amendment rights. We hear so much about the 2nd Amendment, but now people of America – welcome to the 1st Amendment. Thank goodness kids have the gumption to use it rather than waiting for adults to get something done. They’re also using technology and social media to their advantage. Those lazy kids always on their phones, right?

The question is, will they make it happen this time? Can we come to our senses as a nation and introduce sensible gun laws such as restricting access to semi automatic weapons? As the politicians offer their useless thoughts and prayers, people are still buying these evil guns, adding more fuel to an already blazing fire. A few AR-15 owners, (too few probably to make a difference but it’s symbolic and it’s a start) are openly admitting they don’t actually need these guns and are having them destroyed because they couldn’t live with the possibility that sometime down the road, the weapon they purchased could be responsible for killing kids. And due to public pressure, several big companies have cut ties with the NRA and no longer offer member discounts. President Trump has even shown support for raising the minimum age for purchasing semi automatic rifles and improving background checks, but there’s no sign yet of specific legislation to accomplish any of these goals.

And our dear POTUS has also suggested arming teachers! Yes, let’s do that. Bring more guns into schools and hand them out to untrained and inexperienced English teachers: “To shoot or not to shoot…”  They’re already underpaid and underfunded, what could possibly go wrong?

And he’s not joking – in Colorado for instance there are already teachers who are packing heat. The national news covered the story last week, featuring a teacher who proudly reached into his leather boot and whipped out a handgun.

Do you really want Wild Bill Hickock teaching your kids arithmetic?

The proposal to arm teachers is ludicrous,” a North Carolina high school teacher told me last week, “I will leave education completely if they put more guns in schools,” he added. And he’s not alone. There would be a mass exodus of teachers if this policy were enacted.

We should be proud of these young people who, in the last two weeks, have been forced to grow up, had their innocence and childhood ripped away from them, yet have the courage and strength to step up onto a national stage. They are articulate, knowledgeable and were obviously paying attention in debate class. They’ve spoken on network and cable TV, at town hall meetings and rallies. They’ve stood up to the NRA and Republican politicians, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Some of them have directly challenged President Trump.

But in the meantime the madness of America continues – the same day school shooting survivors marched on Florida’s state capitol, the Florida House passed a bill requiring every school and administrative building to display “In God We Trust.” But they refused to tackle a bill to ban assault weapons supported by those student survivors.

Politicians better start listening and stop faffing around – some of these kids are almost old enough to vote…

These are weapons of war and should remain in the battlefield. There’s no need for them in a civilized society other than a plaything for a bunch of Rambo wannabees. I think they can survive without their sub machine guns and still fight off evil dictators with the remainder of their burgeoning personal arsenals. Even many avid gun owners (some whom I know very well) agree with this sentiment.

So we’ll wait and see what happens…until the next time. Unless weapons like the AR-15 – which have the capacity to fire 45 rounds per minute – are taken out of circulation, it could happen again.

The question is where? And can shooting drills offer any protection to our kids? Can a five-year old child, a 10 year old, a 15 year old, ever be prepared against a maniac with a military style weapon? Can a teacher protect them from active gunfire? And will God step up to the plate next time and magically render the gun useless just in time? I think not. So let’s forget about the supernatural and concentrate on the actual.

And let’s live up to the kids’ motto: #NeverAgain.

While right wing politicians, lobbyists and gun owners, cling to their right to bear arms, and try to pass silly laws about God, where does that leave us parents here in the real world?

Should we send our daughter to public school this fall?

We were already strongly favoring home schooling and this latest massacre, coupled with the utter inadequacy and lunacy displayed by lawmakers, just sealed the deal for me.

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