I am a retired teacher, counselor and principal. I am also a wife, mother and grandmother of elementary-age schoolchildren. My 35 years of experience has been in school systems in the Northeast, South and Midwest. And yes, I was raised near Newtown, Conn. So today's issue of gun violence hits close to home.
I don't own a gun. I wasn't raised in a gun-owner milieu. However, I've had friends, neighbors and colleagues who own guns. I respect the right of our citizens to possess firearms for hunting and self-protection. I do agree with these friends that military-style assault weapons and large magazine clips aren't part of hunting deer, quail or the like. They're meant for mass shootings.
More importantly, I want to speak about assault weapons and large magazine clips as they relate to schools. Educators are in the profession to instruct and guide. They're not meant to be armed guards. While I do think that a police presence at schools is necessary, I disagree with arming teachers. I've worked closely with sheriffs who were assigned to my schools and these individuals became part of the school family, helping me in many ways.
However, one police officer doesn't guarantee protection from a mass shooter. If a perpetrator wants to enter a school even with locked entrances, he or she can find a way. My concern is that the perpetrator has easy access to assault weapons and large magazine clips. By the time that one police officer can get to the shooter, many young people and staff could be killed. Having an officer in a school isn't the only answer. Banning assault weapons and large magazine clips is a more reasonable approach.
It's said that schools need lockdown drills. I've held too many in my career. I've had SWAT team practices in my schools after hours to prepare local police for a mass shooting. Do you know how difficult it is to explain to students that they need to practice hiding in their classrooms from those who possess weapons whose sole purpose is the mass shooting of the innocent? These lockdowns alone scare the children. Principals now must be prepared to protect students and staff from mass shootings when our job is to educate. We need to consider the reasons why these new drills have become necessary.
What will it take for our legislators to ban assault weapons and sale of large magazine clips? What will it take for required background checks for all gun/rifle purchases? What will it take for changes in the mental health reporting systems to keep guns from the unstable? And most importantly, is the protection of our citizenry less important than re-election?
Sonntag lives in Edmond. She has taught and served as an administrator at the elementary, middle school and high school levels in North Carolina, Michigan, Louisiana and Connecticut.