I'm a mom to two young Missoula schoolchildren and since the Sandy Hook shooting in December of 2012, gun violence prevention is my world. Jamie Rogers' story on what Missoula County Public Schools is doing to deal with potential school shootings was important and engaging (see "A history of violence," April 10). But the elephant in the room was scarcely acknowledged. There have been 63 school shootings in America since the Sandy Hook tragedy, illustrating the fact that we're not dealing with the problem at the source.
No matter how we fortify our schools, rigorously train our teachers, unnerve our children with lockdown drills, we won't be able to save them. Not until we deal with the obvious epidemic of gun violence and fix our lax gun laws in this country. How can we put the onus of protecting our children and teachers from a gunman on our children and our teachers, when we won't demand that our legislators stand up to the gun lobby?
Nearly eight children and teens are shot and killed every single day in America. I don't like that my second grader knows what to do when a gunman comes to her classroom, or the fact that this scenario has even entered the consciousness of American schoolchildren. These measures taken by schools across the country are reactionary and do not get to the root of the problem: dangerous people with easy access to guns. Rather than training our children to hide from the bad guys, shouldn't we focus on keeping guns out of dangerous hands?
There is no simple solution to ending school shootings, and I do appreciate the steps MCPS has taken to try to protect our kids when a horrible situation occurs. But there are commonsense things we can do to prevent those situations from happening, like strengthening our background check system. Background checks work—since the system was created, more than two million gun purchases were blocked from prohibited buyers. Unfortunately, background checks are not universal and there are loopholes in the system, which allow gun sales to occur with no check, like sales at gun shows and online transactions. In Montana, no mental health records are submitted to the NICS system (this is in direct conflict with federal law). On any given day in Montana, anyone with a criminal history or a severe mental illness can buy a gun at will ... no questions asked. This needs to stop.
The Montana Chapter of Moms Demand Action is working to fix the system to make our communities safer, which in turn will make our schools a safer and more peaceful place for kids to learn and grow. That's really what we all want, right? So let's stop fearing talking about guns and start solving the problem from the source. If we keep up this mentality of reacting, we have failed to protect our children and it will again and again be too late.
Nancy de Pastino
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America