Steve Frey, CEO of Ascendant Educational Services
based in Radford, Virginia
This column was going to be about the coming of spring in the New River Valley, full of lightness and joy.
However, something happened last Wednesday, Valentine’s Day of all days, which changed the focus for today: another mass shooting at a school.
Our area is very familiar with Parkland, Florida’s grief. People remember every detail of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech.
In a few hours, thousands of lives and entire communities can be changed forever. A feeling of security and safety is shattered, and every recurrence of a mass shooting brings the events of that day back to mind with graphic clarity.
It would seem that we have a choice in our country: try to do something to limit the murders of our children, or do nothing and watch those murders continue.
Please know that this is not about banning guns. Most Americans believe in the Second Amendment and the right to have guns. You should be able to hunt, enjoy target practice or have a gun at home for self-protection.
Yes, a gun is a tool, and the person holding the gun makes the decision about how it will be used, but too many people in America, many more than any other first world country, choose to use it to slaughter our fellow citizens.
Nobody wants to see a child shot to death. Yes, it happened in Parkland, but I remember very vividly the deaths of 20 first-graders and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
I remember, because I was a principal with about 100 first graders and 400 students in other grades at our school then. I could not imagine what that community of children, parents and educators must have been going through.
We had a very positive, nurturing culture at our school, we practiced extreme safety measures with visitors and we had regular lock-down and lock-out drills, but I could still see the worry in some parents’ eyes.
We all spent a lot of time reassuring parents that we would keep our children safe and that they were just as precious to us as to them. We meant it. They trusted us. We would never let them down.
No, nobody wants to see a classroom of first graders shot to death and also realize the dead teacher in front of them gave her life to try to shield and protect her children.
However, since that time nothing – NOTHING – has been done to stop the slaughter of our children. Can’t we do something to at least limit some of these deaths? Here are some common sense starting points.
Nobody wants guns in the hands of insane people or violent criminals do they? Well, to prevent that, we need to have some kind of universal background check across the United States.
If one state doesn’t allow people to buy guns without a background check at a gun show, flea market or online, but other states do, insane people and violent criminals can go to the easy access state, buy guns and ammunition, and go home to murder children in their elementary school.
What’s wrong with a background check to eliminate insane people and violent criminals from having guns?
Yes, you would have to have criteria for who is insane and an appeals process, but wouldn’t that be better than letting someone who is clearly insane get an AR-15, 100 round magazines, and/or a bump stock and murder a bunch of kids in your neighborhood school.
There should also be an adequate waiting period, shouldn’t there; to make sure people are investigated properly?
Okay, I hope we can agree that insane people and violent criminals should not have guns. Let’s address those bump stocks.
A bump stock can make a semi-automatic rifle into a continuous-fire, automatic machine gun. Advocates for bump stocks will say there is nothing wrong with them because their jerky motion makes them highly inaccurate.
However, they are extremely effective in quickly slaughtering people in large crowds. The shooter can just spray rounds at a dense crowd, quickly murdering or maiming hundreds.
Look what the killer did in Las Vegas. Using bump stock-modified AR-15’s, he was able to murder 56 and injure over 500 people in a matter of about 11 minutes. Are bump stocks useful for anything besides murdering large crowds of people?
How many times will we hear the story about a 10-year-old shooting his five-year-old brother and killing him?
Yes, we can hold the parents responsible for negligence and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, but that will not bring the five-year-old back.
Can’t we have legislation for minimum storage safety rules in homes to prevent these accidental shootings? Can’t we require gun-owners to have a safe or gun locks to stop this?
Speaking of home, should people accused of domestic violence be allowed to have guns? How many people die because a violent person with easy access to a weapon decides to end an ex-lover’s life and often his own?
Should people who are on a terrorist watch list or a no-fly list be able to buy guns? Doesn’t it make sense that if you are a potential terrorist you should not be able to have a gun to BE a terrorist?
Yes, implement an appeals process, but this would seem to be a no-brainer.
Here are a couple other no-brainers: why do we need to sell armor piercing bullets? Doesn’t that just put first responders and others in greater danger?
Recently, there has been a discussion about allowing people to buy silencers. Why does anyone need a silencer?
Another idea is to limit the number of rounds a gun magazine can hold. Do you really need a 30-round magazine to hunt deer? Limiting the number of rounds in a magazine can slow down a mass murderer because he would have to change magazines more often and, hopefully, someone could stop him before he kills more children.
These seem like common sense, logical ideas, don’t they? None are new.
There should also be a discussion about semi-automatic, military-style weapons like an AR-15.
Are these rapid-fire, battlefield-designed weapons necessary in our society? There are many thousands out there, so perhaps the easiest first step would be to say new sales are banned, and current owners have to have a special license and training, along with the other precautions listed above.
However, because these weapons were designed only to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, a discussion about their future must happen.
Finally, it is just one part of the equation, but there does need to be an increase in our strained mental health services in schools and communities.
Budget cuts have decimated levels of counselors, school psychologists, social workers and community health services.
What is more important than mental health services? With budget funding discussions coming up, you will find out whether our national priorities are our people or other things.
There is no government conspiracy to take your guns and enslave you. You can hunt, get in some target practice and protect your home, but maybe, just maybe, with some common sense gun safety legislation, one child, or 17, or 20 may not have to die because our elected representatives refuse to do anything to stop it.
The argument is that legislation will change nothing.
Tell the parents of the dead children in Parkland that prohibiting an 18-year-old with mental problems from walking into a store to buy a military-style, semi-automatic weapon and ammunition wouldn’t make a difference.
Doing nothing means more children will die. No one in the Roanoke Valley wants that. No one in America should.
Yet, so far this year, a mass shooting at a school has happened an average of once a week.
Legislators, stop this national disgrace, our national nightmare.
Do something before the next first grader is needlessly, tragically shot to death at her school.