Gun Sense Not Gun Control

Moms Demand Action head Dana Ellis (Image Courtesy of Dana Ellis)

By Joey Kennedy

At no point during my time as a public school student did we have active shooter drills. School shootings just weren’t a thing during my 13 years of public education (including kindergarten!)

But when I was in first grade those many years ago, we did have nuclear bomb drills. Seriously. We’d all file out of Miss Mullinex’s classroom, sit down against the Hamshire (Texas) Elementary School hallway walls, and put our heads between our legs. Like that was going to protect us from nuclear war. Still, we were doing something, and it would have been pretty darn scary if I had actually understood what we were doing.

Now, sadly, as students prepare to return to their schools this month, they’ll likely be facing multiple days of active shooter drills. They’ll learn how to lock their classroom doors, turn off the lights, and be quiet, even as some disturbed individual is shooting up their school. They may shelter, scrunched together, in a classroom supply closet if one exists. Teachers or administrators in some schools may actually be armed.

That is scary.

I return to the classroom at UAB later this month, too. While we don’t have active shooter drills, I have undergone active shooter training, as did most every UAB faculty member, a year or so ago. I armed myself with wasp spray to keep in my classroom, the goal being to distract a shooter if he showed up.

We live in different times, but then, I’d bet every geezer says that. Still, there’s so much more we could do to lower the risk of gun violence–if we just would.

Birmingham’s Dana Ellis, Alabama Chapter Leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, is already dreading what is sure to happen at some point this coming school year.

Somewhere, on some day, there will be another mass school shooting. Like Sandy Hook (Conn.) or Marjory Stoneman Douglas (Fla.) or Santa Fe (Texas) High School.

“It would be great if this were the first school year it didn’t happen,” said Ellis. But unfortunately, she said, that is a long shot.

It’s important here to note that despite criticism from groups like the National Rifle Association and some other pro-gun groups, Moms Demand Action, a national group, isn’t campaigning for the repeal of the Second Amendment. The group only wants common-sense gun legislation that will lower the chances of another school or other mass shooting. And, as important, to help prevent some of the hundreds of gun deaths and injuries that occur every day in the United States. According to Everytown for Gun Safety (of which Moms Demand Action is a part), about 100 Americans die each day from gun violence, most of those from suicides. Many more than that are wounded.

The mass shootings at schools and other places get the media coverage, but gun violence in the United States is seriously out of kilter with any other developed nation.

“The school shootings are horrific,” Ellis said. “And they cause our children to have lockdown drills. There’s a collective trauma.”

But, Ellis adds: “School shootings represent only a small portion of the daily gun deaths. We also have a responsibility to look at the daily toll of gun violence.”

There’s no effort to prevent Americans from legally owning guns, either for hunting or for personal safety or for sport. Indeed, many activists with Moms Demand Action are gun owners themselves. Instead, Moms is focusing on pushing common-sense gun legislation.

Those proposals include:

•Requiring background checks on all guns sales (supported by an overwhelming majority of gun owners).

•Red flag laws so that law enforcement and family members can act on warning signs of violence, to temporarily prevent access to firearms.

•Laws governing how guns are stored in homes so that children don’t have access to them.

•Raising the age to purchase semiautomatic rifles like AR-15 to 21 years old to make it more difficult for minors to purchase them.

This year in Alabama, Ellis and Moms Demand Action helped county sheriffs and other law enforcement agencies defeat an effort in the Alabama Legislature to allow people to conceal carry firearms without a permit. But a Red Flag proposal didn’t go far. Congress needs to address comprehensive background checks. Some states already require people to be 21 or older to buy semiautomatic firearms or already have laws addressing how guns are stored at home.

Alabama is not the tip of the spear–or barrel of the gun, if you will–on these issues.

There is hope, though. Ellis said that Moms Demand Action’s Be SMART program is available to any group or organization who requests it. “This program speaks with gun owners on how to responsibly store guns,” Ellis said. “We are ready, at any time, to give this 20-minute presentation.”

(Write to Ellis at [email protected] if you would like to schedule a Be SMART presentation.)

And if you’re a curious soul like me, you should check out the report “Keeping Our Schools Safe: A Plan to Stop Mass Shootings and End Gun Violence in American Schools,” put together by Everytown, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers. Go to and click on “Protecting Kids and Communities” to read and download a copy.

People have to get over the twisted thinking that every sensible gun law is the first step on the slippery slope to ban guns outright. It is not.

As Ellis said, “It’s about gun sense, not gun control.”

Our children shouldn’t have to endure the trauma of a school shooting or even an active shooter drill or lockdown.

As Moms Demand Action demonstrates every day, they don’t really have to if only common sense could prevail.

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