Listen to the children

We cannot accept guns in school as the new normal

High School students from Brooklyn demand that our elected representatives protect students from gun violence and enact sane gun laws. #BrooklynWalksOut (photo by Jeffrey Bary, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
High School students from Brooklyn demand that our elected representatives protect students from gun violence and enact sane gun laws. #BrooklynWalksOut (photo by Jeffrey Bary, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

Policymakers, especially those holding elected office, often have a bad habit of failing to listen to those most impacted by a problem. That failure, of course, usually ends up with ineffective legislation, or no legislation at all, to address whatever the problem may be.

Wisconsin high school students are reeling right now, as two students have been shot by police in two different high schools in the last two days, and other real or threatened school weapon incidents occurred in 8 Wisconsin high schools in the past 3 days. Fortunately, none of these events resulted in a mass shooting, but the net result is that students are scared to go to school.

Although some policymakers, including Madison school board President Gloria Reyes, are focusing on the need for police presence to deal with this situation, given the failure of our legislature to pass any gun control legislation, that is not the solution that students are seeking. Rather, just like the students in Parkland, Wisconsin high school students are insisting that the answer to gun violence is common sense gun control legislation. Indeed, students at Wauwautosa High School are planning a walk out to make clear how upset they are at the failure of politicians to address meaningful gun control.

In a sadly typical response, Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s response to the recent high school shootings, was a pathetic, “we do not possess the capability to completely prevent someone from bringing a weapon to school.” Quite appropriately, Wauwautosa High School student Michael Orlowski, responded, “I’d like Sen. Johnson to come to my school and say what he’s doing about gun violence.” Sadly, the answer thus far at both the federal and state level is absolutely nothing.

Not even a month ago, Wisconsin Republicans refused to entertain any gun control legislation when Gov. Tony Evers called a special session on gun control. They literally spent 30 seconds in session and then left.

When Gov. Evers recently announced that he was considering calling another special session on gun control, my initial reaction was, “what’s the point?” After all, why would the Republicans in charge of a gerrymandered legislature be more interested in actually considering and passing meaningful gun control legislation now than they were last month? Perhaps, they will do the same infantile thing they did last time and refuse to consider and vote on reasonable gun control legislation such as universal background checks and red flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who are known to be dangerous.

However, perhaps these recent school shootings will provide an opportunity for high school students to take the lead and walk out of their high schools and into their legislators’ offices to demand that they respond to the scary reality of their high schools becoming the 21st Century Wild Wild West. In fact, I now believe that Gov. Evers should keep calling special sessions, surrounded by high school students, until Wisconsin Republican legislators finally get the message and respond by passing common sense gun legislation.

While everyone appreciates appropriate police response to school gun incidents, the answer is not putting more guns and police in our schools. Although police have an appropriate role to respond in emergencies, the data reveals that non-emergency police presence in schools fuels the school to prison pipeline with the highest impact on students of color and students with disabilities.

So, let’s listen to the children, and pass common sense gun control legislation to address the gun crisis in our schools, and let’s do it NOW.