I never thought I would have to have the “talk.” I am the father of three African American girls, and the idea of advising them on how to duck, cover or play dead during a school shooting had never occurred to me.
That is until the recent act of gun violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County left 17 persons dead and, again, re-ignited a debate that never seems to gain traction -- gun control.
"If you hear or see someone trying to hurt others, run as fast and as far away as you can," my wife and I say, trying to explain the inexplicable.
“Listen to your teachers, and if you can’t run, then do your best to hide and stay quiet. If your sister is near, grab her and protect each other.”
When they ask ‘Why, daddy?’ our response is equally disheartening.
“Sometimes, people feel sad or lonely, and have trouble expressing their feelings,” we say. “They want to make others feel the way they do, so they use guns to express themselves through violence, and that is not okay.”
It’s almost unimaginable having talks like these with your daughters, age 7 and (twins) 4. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly necessary. Like the male version to protect young black men from police violence, parents are now having to school their kids on gun violence.
Since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary and secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The bottom-line? Our children face a gun crisis. Many of these young people aren't even old enough to buy a drink, but can purchase a deadly assault rifle.
In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, we have seen youngsters who endured a horrific attack become advocates and leaders, while the men and women elected to protect them – and us -- sit idly as the safety of our youth is jeopardized. Inspired by the devastating tragedy, these students honor the lives of their classmates through action.
More than 100 students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School arrived this week at the state Capitol in Tallahassee in hopes of convincing state lawmakers to demand action from a state Legislature that has refused to budge on common sense gun reform.
Lobbying for gun reform in Tallahassee is never easy, as several students saw first-hand when Republicans in the Florida House blocked a bill that would ban assault weapons from a floor vote. Influential gun-rights groups, like the NRA, still have our lawmakers on lockdown.
Yet, these students are bringing winds of change. They aren’t being distracted by “now is not the time …” or what hasn’t been done. They are emboldened by the possibility of what can and should be done.
Now, suddenly the Florida governor who’s signed every gun-rights bill sent his way is mulling options, saying “everything’s on the table.” The Agriculture Commissioner who hopes to succeed Scott and once bragged he was a proud “NRA sellout” is regretting that branding.
There is talk of actually doing something, even if not imposing the ban on AR 15s and other semi-automatic weapons that the students want. Despite what some pundits are saying, this is not an attempt to strip away the 2nd amendment. Rather it is an effort to limit access to weapons of war in our community.
For the young visitors, this week at the state Capitol is about meetings and expressing frustration. More marches and demonstrations will surely follow. When their time comes of age, they will have the opportunity to vote, and I believe they will remember.
Actions speak louder than words. My hope – and support – are with this new generation of leadership that will ultimately force or enact sensible gun regulations so that parents no longer have to have the “talk.”