When a shooter killed 10 people and wounded 13 others at Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018, everything changed for our community. Since then, we have all been desperately trying to make sense of it, pick up the pieces and avoid a recurrence. I’m incredibly concerned that many lawmakers think the solution is putting more guns in our children’s schools. For children in communities like mine that have experienced gun violence, every gun in their school is another reminder of what happened that day, and what could happen if that gun gets into the wrong hands.
My daughter was a seventh-grader at Santa Fe Junior High School when the shooting happened. I remember the texts she sent after I dropped her off telling me that she loved me, and there was a shooter in the high school. Our morning school routine used to be just that — routine. But now, I study her clothing before I drop her off. I squeeze her hand before she gets out of the car and hold my breath as she walks into school. For the first week after the shooting, I waited in the car until every child walked into school to make sure they didn’t come running back out.
Next year, my daughter will walk the same halls where the shooting happened. Her teachers will still be grieving the students they lost and her classmates will still be trying to make sense of the tragedy they endured. What the kids of Santa Fe need is counseling and emotional support to help them heal from the trauma of last year — but come September, the grant money for every grief counselor hired after the shooting will run out, and their contracts will expire. How can it be that our legislature will fight for Santa Fe High School to have guns but not grief counselors?
Lawmakers may not understand how risky putting more guns in schools would be, but our children do. A few weeks ago, my daughter told me about a fight that broke out in her classroom where a teacher was almost knocked over by a student. My heart sank as she told me how she imagined what could have happened if that teacher had a gun. She used to be afraid that a student would sneak a gun into school. Now, she’s afraid of the guns that are already there.
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I’d like to tell her that she has nothing to worry about. But last month in Fort Worth, a police officer unintentionally discharged his gun at a high school. Similar incidents have happened in schools across the country when law enforcement and trained security carry guns in schools. The risk of a gun misfiring or being mishandled by a teacher in school — let alone during an active shooter situation — is just too great.
There are so many things we can do to make our schools safer, like increasing funding for mental health counselors, threat assessment programs and physical security upgrades. These should have been lawmakers’ top priority. But instead, they focused on bills like HB 1387, which would allow an unlimited number of teachers and school staff to be armed, further traumatizing a generation of kids who are now afraid of the guns that could be carried by their teachers. HB 1387 passed the Texas Senate on Tuesday and now heads to Gov. Abbott’s desk.
One year after the tragedy that rocked our community, I still spend most days dreading a text like the one I received that day. As we continue to remember the tragedy that happened last year, I hope that Gov. Abbott rejects HB 1387, and any bill that would put more guns in our schools.