Op-ed By Midge Pierce
Ten months ago, a banner hung at Cleveland High protesting police officers at schools. Post-Parkland, conversations have exploded nationwide over arming teachers who scarcely have enough books to go around.
Oregonians may be surprised that concealed handguns are already allowed in state schools. Anyone with a legal, concealed carry license can bring a loaded weapon into public facilities that include schools unless specific prohibitions are posted by employers. In some places, teachers may already be packing.
At Portland Public Schools, firearms are specifically prohibited. Thirty miles north, St. Helens allows staff to be armed, according to The Register-Guard. Oregon districts make local decisions despite federal gun-free school laws and teachers unions and police associations saying handguns are no match for weapons of war.
Whether or not you consider fortifying halls of learning a daft idea, a growing majority supports providing more mental health services, tightening background checks and removing bump stocks from store shelves as the NRA continues to condone sales of automatic rifles with no purpose but to mutilate.
In terms of state regulations, Oregon is mid-pack. Gun sales are restricted to those 21 and over, but Oregon has no limit on the number of magazines purchased and no requirements to register guns that are legally owned.
Sales of AR-15s and modifications to make them more lethal, surge at gun shows, online, on the black market and sports-shops. Local gun stores advertise more than 20 types of AR-15s and limitless options for customization.
Since the Florida carnage, the state boasts it was the first to pass gun legislation – the “boyfriend loophole” that bans domestic abusers from possessing guns. Plus, Extreme Risk Protection Orders allow courts to temporarily remove firearms from a person posing “significant” danger. Adjudication can be a lengthy process that does nothing to make schools safe.
Almost 50,000 students attend Portland’s seventy-eight public schools with fewer than a dozen police Security Resource Officers. Police say more officers are needed especially because SROs are trained to avert problems before they escalate.
Teachers take emergency training online. PPS tried metal detectors at a middle school 20 years ago. Processing students one at a time took two and a half hours. The district has no plans – or funding – to further fortify facilities.
Instead, PPS points to parental responsibilities: Know your child’s friends, have conversations about what to do if someone posts threats on social media, have a safety plan, report suspicious behavior. Before playdates, ask if a household has guns and how they are kept safe. Parents should also monitor school security practices. This writer was distressed at how easy it was to wander halls of a Southeast elementary unattended. No monitoring of security cameras was in evidence at other Southeast schools.
Individuals can follow NRA money. Republican Greg Walden has reportedly received $39,000 and Democrat Kurt Shrader $5000. You can check favorite stores, brands, banks, credit cars or investments to determine which are tied to the manufacture of killing machines. A number of airlines and car rentals have already scrapped NRA perks.
As calls for action come from children who had an AR-15 pointed at their heads, national polls show that two-thirds of Americans support controls on automatic weapons and raising minimum age requirements for gun purchases. Despite the difficulty of defining thousands of varieties of automatic weaponry, nations from Northern Europe to Australia that have done so claim it saves lives.
In this country, mass shooting has become a rising numbers game since a ban on assault weapons ended in 2004. After the heartbreak of Sandy Hook, ten states actually weakened firearm restrictions while Connecticut has banned automatic weapons, and limited magazine sales and saw a drop in gun deaths.
A Multnomah County Sheriff’s Captain warns that firearm bans fail to address the multitude of weapons and cartridges already in circulation. Harry Smith says his office has a voluntary turn-in program to destroy unwanted guns. The most netted in a single year is 200. So far, nothing has reduced the proliferation of weapons and complexity of different jurisdictions, laws, courts and claims of constitutional rights.
You’ve heard it ad nauseum before: change takes time, but two decades is too long for those with children and grandchildren who are our hearts walking outside our bodies. Nightmare news breaks; voices scream, “Don’t let it be my town. “My kid. Any kid.”
So here we are. Students, riddled with bullets, trauma, (an identity a pundit called the “Shooting Generation”) plead for action. “We don’t know what it’s like not to feel fear,” say survivors of Parkland (or Thurston, Roseburg, Clackamas, Pulse, Vegas on and on…)
For me, every word is an echo – and a gut punch – from decades ago in Denver. A staffer rushed into a meeting to alert me to a school massacre a few miles away. She knew I had a daughter attending high school a few miles away. In an age before cellphones, time stood still until I knew she was okay.
Columbine colored my TV career. We scheduled non-violent programs and critical-thinking as antidotes to heinous video games. We held town halls. We launched a national campaign called Generation Hope: Voices for Change. We heard students say, “Children should chase dreams not bullets.” Nothing changed.
Will this time be different? Will the movement last longer than a news cycle or compassion fatigue? Will you join the marches of children to strengthen background checks and ban high capacity weapons that mangle children’s internal organs?
We are the change our children seek.
Never Again March, 3.24.18
Sat, Mar 24, 8:00 AM
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
Description: Subject: Never Again March, Portland 3.24.18Hello All;Here is an opportunity to act in solidarity with the high school students in Parkland, Florida and all others who have experienced the gun violence. Stand with Children and others are organizing a march against gun violence SATURDAY, March 24th at 8:00 am atTom McCall Waterfront Park. Here is a sign up. I am sure there will be much more information available to you over the next few weeks if you sign up now. Please circulate this attachment far and wide and encourage people to bring their children and extended family members. This is a real opportunity to tell our Oregon legislators and the US Senate and House members that we are many, mad and ready to vote in November.AnnBarkleyannbarkley@earthlink.net