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Letter to the Editor: Gun Control Equals Better Schools

After the tragedy at Sandy Hook, a Naperville area teacher calls on teachers as well as public officials to demand gun control.

Safe schools lead to safer students who are more likely to be better learners.

The Connecticut shooting last week shattered the families of 20 little first graders. Colorado’s theater shooting a few months ago claimed the lives of several college students. Chicago neighborhood teens routinely risk their lives en route to their middle and high schools. Gun violence accounts for a significant number of deaths of children under the age of 18- our students. Gun Control would facilitate students getting to and from school in one piece and focus their attention during the school day on learning instead of safety.

New York’s Mayor Bloomberg recently challenged police officers to demand gun control. “Others run away when they hear gunfire, but police officers must run towards that sound” and address the violence, he stated. Bloomberg challenges police officers to take up the gun control mantle and demand that the citizens of their community move to act. Police officers cannot be asked to defend a society that allows rampant gun ownership; more firearms than there are men, women, and children in the entire United States. No other nation has nearly as many guns nor as many deaths by guns.

Today, I am calling on our teachers to also demand gun control. Like police officers, teachers are now faced with the prospect of adding protecting students from gunfire to the list of responsibilities that include providing learning, nursing, and nourishment. When guns and their wielders enter our schools and threaten the lives of our students, we cannot help them excel at multiplication facts or discuss literature. We may be burying them instead. 

Social service servants such as police officers, teachers, doctors and others bear the burden of producing, protecting and empowering the next generation of citizenry. We cannot raise tomorrow’s empowered adults when our children today are cowering from shooters and their murdering bullets. 

If our society wants us to teach our citizenry, then they must send students in and out of our schools and communities safely. Poverty and violence are two of the strongest challenges to effective teaching and learning. Maslow’s research posited decades ago that to achieve self-actualization and reach our potential as learners and producers in a successful society, we must first fulfill our individual need to be fed, sheltered, and safe. Students cannot learn if they are unsafe at school.  And today, our children know that their school and their teachers cannot keep them safe.

The National Rifle Association in 2008 contributed $1.2 million to political campaigns. By contrast, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence contributed $33,000. The lobby promoting guns in our country is far more powerful than any organization or individual who is calling for responsible and reasonable gun ownership. O.K. then, let’s compare dollars.  Each of the children killed last week cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in healthcare, parenting, schooling, and municipal support (police protection, fire department, library services, etc.). As a society, let’s get a return on that investment in the form of a healthy, productive adult citizen, not another casualty of gun violence and a loss of valuable ROI. Our political leaders need to compare these numbers against the gun lobby’s millions.

Teachers and parents must stand together with police officers, park district personnel, librarians, physicians, politicians and others who are investing in our children and keeping them safe and nurtured. We may argue about school lunches and discuss the common core standards. We may disagree on whether our kids are too distracted by television and video games. But it is time to collectively agree to stop guns from killing our students so they can go to school and learn.

Dilara Sayeed is a teacher at the preK-college level in the Naperville area and a Doctor of Educational Leadership candidate at Harvard University. 

Gerard Schilling December 19, 2012 at 12:43 PM
The direct cause of this atrocity is the methodical elimination from our society of its historical value systems, dare I say, religious, moral, ethical, financial and patriotic by the so called progressives and their educational advocates who have taken over the school systems! When adults can’t or won’t hold themselves accountable for their actions what do they expect from the children who have been taught by example that anything goes, there are no rules, self-discipline is to be avoided at all cost, instant gratification is the norm and it’s ok for government to steal from the producers to give to the loafers and cronies. Guns aren’t the problem but rather the time tested truths taught by most religions that killing is an abomination and the term thou shalt not kill except in self- defense observed. These ethical and moral codes need to be taught in schools, at home, at work and practiced otherwise we will have what we have today, moral anarchy. We don’t need more guards but rather responsible parents and teachers who have an ethical and moral bases that becomes inculcated into their children and charges. The enemy is not guns but us and no law present or future will protect us from this insanity!
Fiona Cummings December 19, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Mrs. Sayeed, I commend you for your rational and, in this environment, brave, call to action. Anyone who calls for the obviously sensible solution of limiting access to guns in order to make our schools and our society a safer place, risks opening themselves up to the charge of "progressive", "socialist", "constitution hater" among other labels. Indeed, it is often impossible for any rational argument such is the power of the NRA and holders of extreme political views of any type. However, Mr. Schilling's theory that the tragic events in Newton were caused by the "so called progressives and their educational advocates who have taken over the school sytems" is the first time that I have heard anyone suggesting that the teachers themselves were the cause of the shooting. Almost without exception (and yes, there are always a few), the teachers I have met have been dedicated, talented and held the welfare and education of the children they teach as their highest priority. I hold the example of the staff at Sandy Hook to be just such an example. The enemy is indeed, but not solely, guns. It is also all those who cannot look at themselves and our society, hold onto good values, embrace needed change and unite to make it happen.
The Sentinel December 19, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Ok, I'll bite. I own some guns...legally. I very much enjoy sport shooting at targets. I am a mamber of the NRA BUT I do not believe anyone needs to own any type of assault rifle. I would not be disagreeable to background checks I have read a lot of comments here and in other places about "gun control". But nobody has an answer as to how to make gun control meaningful. Would you ban guns completely? Witness the extremely poor results of Chicago's TOTAL ban on guns. You cannot own a gun (legally) in the city yet take a look at the number of shootings that have occurred since the "ban" was put into effect. Nope, a total ban won't work. Backround checks? Oh, they may ferret out some who shouldn't own a gun but the shooter that killed all those children would have had a clean background check, believe it or not. And his MOM would have had a clean background check as well. Limit the capacity of ammo clips? Yes, that may help but if someone wanted a 30-round clip for a rifle, I'm sure there are plenty of people who'd smuggle them in and sell them. Put more police on the streets? Again, in Chicago that STILL hasn't worked. What I'm looking for from anyone in favor of gun control are their ideas of what an eeffective gun control plan would entail. It's easy to join the people shouting "GUN CONTROL' but it's awful hard to think past that to come up with a workable plan. If you want gun control, fine. But don't just stop at that...let's hear some realistic, workable ideas.
Dilara December 24, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Thank you for your responses. I completely agree that we must advocate for control with "realistic, workable ideas." First, let's enforce the current laws on background checks and waiting periods where they exist and add them in states where they don't. No matter how many laws we enact, we will not make a difference unless we enforce them, so this must be the initial step. Second, (single-shot) rifles in the hands of hunting enthusiasts should not be curtailed- I agree that this is a sport such as archery, etc. A permit for hunting must be shown when such a gun is purchased. But assault rifles, semi-automatic, and any weapons that can penetrate bullet-proof vests should not be allowed anywhere in our country. This will be the more difficult political stance, but it must be the one courageous Americans advocate for. Let's start with these two important points that serve as deterrent and enforcement for rampant abuse of gun ownership. And let's work together to keep our children safe!

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