California Forum

Teachers need gun control, not guns. And kids need to march for their lives

Parkland students make emotional return to school campus after mass shooting

Hundreds of families visited the Parkland campus for a “reunification” day on Sunday. Teachers, staff and counselors were on hand as students picked up the textbooks and backpacks they left behind as they fled the Valentine’s Day shooting in which 17 died.
Up Next
Hundreds of families visited the Parkland campus for a “reunification” day on Sunday. Teachers, staff and counselors were on hand as students picked up the textbooks and backpacks they left behind as they fled the Valentine’s Day shooting in which 17 died.

As the state Superintendent of Public Instruction and California Teachers of the Year in 2018 and 2014, we would like to focus on education – our students, our challenges, and our inspirations in the classroom. The last thing we want to talk about is guns.

But we must. We can no longer stand on the sidelines while students and teachers are murdered on school campuses with assault weapons designed for combat use. In the nearly 20 years after the first horrific incident at Columbine, we have witnessed tragedy after tragedy with virtually no changes in our national gun laws.

Efforts to enact tighter gun control laws remain stalled at the national level. We call upon the public to insist these laws be enacted – to make Republicans and Democrats hear your voice.

The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb.14, which killed 14 students and three teachers, was just the latest episode and sadly, unlikely to be the last.

Now President Donald Trump advocates arming teachers. We reject this idea.

We do not need guns in the classroom. We need smaller class sizes, more counselors, more school psychologists, more school nurses, more mental health services, and more training in how to effectively deal with students in crisis.

More guns in the classroom do not make classrooms safer, but rather instill fear and anxiety. Teachers should focus on lesson plans and helping students. Students should never have to wonder where a gun is hidden or worry that a teacher might make a mistake and shoot them.

Talk of arming teachers and putting more guns in the classroom distracts us from the root causes of school gun violence – guns and insufficient mental health services.

Many gun enthusiasts enjoy using the AR-15 in target practice. But is the right to shoot a favorite gun worth the lives of our children when so many other guns are available for recreation and for self-defense? We do not think so.

Military-style assault weapons used in these mass shootings should be banned. We encourage more states, and the nation as a whole, to follow the lead of California – the state with the strongest gun control laws.

Specifically, we urge legislators to ban bump stocks, close gun registration loopholes, limit the ammunition capacity of high powered rifles to 10 rounds, and institute universal background checks. In addition, states should follow California’s example by passing “Red Flag” laws that allow family members and police to ask a judge to remove guns and ammunition from a relative who poses as a threat.

Students also need more access to mental health, whether in the school or in the community. And the community needs to work closely with law enforcement officials to make sure they are aware of anyone who is making threats or who has a gun but should not under California law.

We call on our leaders, our community advocates, and our parents to join the brave student advocates from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in demanding stricter national gun laws. We invite you to attend the “March for Our Lives” event in Washington, D.C., and in cities around the nation on March 24.

Efforts to enact tighter gun control laws remain stalled at the national level. We call upon the public to insist these laws be enacted – to make Republicans and Democrats hear your voice.

The trauma, pain, and suffering for the survivors of a mass shooting are terrible and last a lifetime. The loss of life is stunning. Dreams are ended. Families are broken. Communities are shattered. Columbine. Newtown. Parkland.

This issue affects all students and their parents as they wonder who will be next victim. Please help enact the changes that will make our schools, our classrooms, our students, and our society safer.

We dream of the time when schools are so safe that the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the California Teachers of the Year do not have to talk about guns, but can focus entirely on education and teaching our children.

Tom Torlakson is State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Brian McDaniel is one of the 2018 California Teachers of the Year and Michael Hayden is one of the 2014 California Teachers of the Year. Reach them at ttorlakson@cde.ca.gov, mhmhayden@gmail.com and drbrianemcdaniel@gmail.com.

  Comments