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Raising Our Kids In A Time Of School Shootings

In the past month, I have seen both a viral Facebook post about mother upset over her school’s first active shooter drill and a chilling public service announcement that the Sandy Hook Promise group put out, relating back to school supplies to how they could be used in case of an active shooter. I’ve read the comments on the Facebook post, picking apart this distraught mother for being so saddened by the need for active shooter drills. It is sad because the mother was clearly only worrying about her children’s safety, not that active shooter drills aren’t important. Because in this day and age, they are probably one of the more important drills done in school.

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The PSA itself sent chills down my spine. I cried. I wasn’t expecting it. The kids in the video are talking about school supplies, something that is on countless commercials starting in early August. Deemed “The Most Wonderful Time Of Year” for many parents in some advertisements, that is when their kids go back to school and are out of their hair after a long summer break.

But in this PSA, the kids start out innocently describing their back to school gear, but as they pan from kid to kid, you notice that in the background, there is a commotion. The kids begin running as you hear gunshots, one kid even uses her new socks to save the life of another, by creating a tourniquet. It paralyzed me at first, shocked by what I saw. Unfortunately, though, we need to be reminded that these children are kids who go to school to learn, but could be faced with running to safety or having to perform acts of bravery to save a classmate. But this is our reality today.

RELATED: Sandy Hook Promise Debuts Chilling Back to School PSA

When I was in high school (which seems so very long ago now), we didn’t have to worry about active shooter drills. It wasn’t even on our radar. We practiced fire drills and once even had a bomb scare, but there was no worry of a shooting happening at school. That is until Columbine happened.

I was a sophomore in high school and I remember sitting in my English class when we heard about this tragedy. I couldn’t understand what would make teenagers snap like that. The initial rumours began that these boys were the victims of bullying, but in the aftermath, so many stories surfaced disputed that or sharing other motives. After Columbine, things changed in this country. We were aware of the impact of a mass school shooting but not enough was done to slow the rate of school shootings. There have already been more casualties in school shootings in the 21st century than ALL of the 20th. That is terrifying.

I became obsessed with the coverage. I desperately tried to wrap my head around what made these boys do this horrible crime. What had made them so angry? I wanted an answer; a motive for their destruction. I read the news articles, watched the coverage on television, I even read the book Columbine by Dave Cullen when it came out years later because I was still unsettled not knowing why it happened.

Of course, since then there have been many school shootings that have rocked our nation. Sandy Hook was especially hard because the victims were 5 and 6-year-old children and the teachers that protected them until their deaths. Thinking of this one now, looking at my own 5 years old, it terrifies me to know that he is the same age as many of the victims.

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With each one, I am glued to the coverage, trying to find out why this keeps happening. I need it to make sense for me. I am trying to find the reason behind them- is it bullies? Is it too much violence in video games and tv? Is it parents who are busier than ever, not being around to notice the signs? Is it a mental health issue? Is it access to guns? But until an armed gunman stands up and announces why he is about to shoot up a school or leaves behind a detailed diatribe about why he is doing this, I don’t think I will ever get the answers I so desperately want.

As of the end of July, there had been 22 school shootings in 2019. Some get national coverage and some are much smaller in relation, and only get a small blip on the local news. Either way, it’s 22 too many. I know it would be naive of me to think that we can eliminate these deadly crimes, but we have to do more than we are doing now. We need to ask more questions about why this keeps occurring and stop arguing. It’s not just gun control or mental illness. This issue is not black and white and is very complex, but the more we argue, the less action is taken.

After the Parkland, FL tragedy, those students took action. They were angry that this had occurred at their school and instead of counting on “thoughts and prayers,” they took matters into their own hands. This is when the “March For Our Lives” was born because they were fed up. In that, many school violence advocates were born, many of which were victims, who began to publicly speak out on the lack of movement by our nation's government to do anything about this epidemic.

I have a son and he loves to play with toy guns. I’ve managed to steer him towards Nerf Guns, instead of those guns that look dangerously real. I knew, having grown up around kids, that even if we kept the toy guns away from the boys, they would use whatever they could to use as a gun. I have seen it with my own eyes. Take his Nerf guns away and he disassembles the kid's table to use a leg as a gun. They are more resourceful than we give them credit for.

What troubles me now is the stigma around this kind of play. I am very wary of what other people think about his arsenal of Nerf toys. I don’t let him get real looking assault rifles and I don’t let him take them out in public, no matter how much he begs me to. I just don’t want him labelled as the kid who is obsessed with guns. To me, he is normal, playing as many boys before him have played. But now there is a heightened anxiety over if this play indicates something more, that something is wrong or something could be wrong later in life.

I worry about what is normal, and what is not. Is he too obsessed? Will he come to be obsessed with real guns as well? Does this mean he’ll grow up to be in the military? Could he be the next big school shooter? Even writing that terrifies me because as someone who has searched years for answers or links between shooters, I have no idea what makes up a mass school shooter.

It makes me sick that even through normal play, that I have to worry about how he will be stigmatized and labelled if he plays too much with a toy gun. His grandparents tell me that his father played exactly the same way when he was the same age. It’s terrible to think how much has changed in 30 years, knowing that the play then was not seen in the same light as the gunplay is now.

Now I know 100% in my heart that my sweet boy would never do something so horrible. I do wonder what the other parents thought about their children too. I worry about how shocked and heartbroken they felt after hearing the news, knowing the horror that they see on TV is at the hands of their children. I question if they knew that there was something off with their children. How do they recover from that?

I wonder how to talk to my kids about the mass shootings. Part of me wants to show them the dangers of what guns can do, showing them the coverage on TV, so that they know the destruction they can cause. But the same part of me wants to shield them from the worry of this happening to them for just a little longer. Unfortunately, I know as soon as they enter public school, that they will begin practicing the active shooter drills and there will have to be a discussion. It hollows me out to think about trying to explain why they are having these drills and that this is a real danger, especially when we have no reason for why these killing sprees keep happening.

RELATED: States with Stricter Gun Laws Have Fewer Child Gun Fatalities

While Congress and the other politicians in Washington DC argue over gun rights and mental health being the major cause for the increased public mass shootings, all I can do is to arm my children with the ammo on how to react, how to treat others, and what to do if a situation like this arises when the time comes. For now, I will hold them a little tighter and keep them safe in my arms before releasing them into the very scary world.

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