Editorial: Embrace greater good on gun issue

York Dispatch

We’re traumatizing a generation of children.

It’s not just those who endure the ongoing, seemingly endless string of school shootings.

It’s not just those who see classmates and teachers unspeakably maimed or mortally wounded; who mourn violent and unexpected loss.

It’s not just those who shelter in place or run for cover or flee school grounds in a panic.

It’s not just those who survive — frightened and confused, horrified and numb, psychologically and emotionally wounded even if physically whole.

It is an entire generation of public school students.

In the wake of last week’s latest explosion of gun-related violence, this time at Santa Fe High School in Texas, came many of the scenes the nation has, sadly, grown accustomed to: terrified students and parents recounting the events, politicians sending thoughts and prayers, law enforcement officials in search of motive.

But one quiet reaction commanded attention.

Standing outside the high school at which eight of her classmates and two teachers were slain, and another 10 wounded, 17-year-old Paige Curry was asked by a reporter, “Was there a part of you that was like, ‘This isn’t real, this would not happen in my school?’”

Curry gave a sad, knowing laugh. No, there wasn’t, she replied.

“It’s been happening everywhere,” she said. “I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here too.”

This is what American has come to. Mass-murder school shootings are no longer a matter of if, but when. This is what today’s students go to school thinking.

And why would they not?

“The (Santa Fe) shooting was the 16th so far this year at a school during school hours, according to a Washington Post analysis,” the Post reported. The paper says that, since 1999, the year of the Columbine attack, at least 139 students and adults have been killed in school shootings, with another 277 injured. Some 24,000 have directly experienced a school shooting, the Post estimates.

Those numbers have left the gun lobby and the lawmakers who do their bidding cold. Even though the majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners and the majority of NRA members favor common-sense gun-safety laws like ending loopholes for certain purchases, nothing has been done.

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That must change. It’s time to consider the numbers not just of those killed, wounded and grieving — horrifying as those figures are — but of those traumatized. Of the hundreds of thousands of Paige Currys who walk through their school doors wondering not whether they might be entering the line of fire, but whether today’s the day they do so.

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It’s time to consider the greater good.

It’s time for those who defiantly recite the line “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands” to focus not on the “my” but the they. Not on the “me” but the we.

It’s time to review the nation’s gun laws and policies not from the perspective of individual gun ownership but national public safety.

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The Second Amendment is not going anywhere, and neither is the right to own firearms in the United States. But we must find a way to balance that right with the right of millions of school children to attend school free from the preoccupation that they will one day need to put into effect the armed-shooter drills that, shamefully, have become a necessary part of public education.

Banning weapons of war from private arsenals or preventing individuals on the national no-fly registry from purchasing weapons are barely worthy of the word sacrifice. Not compared to the sacrifices we are demanding of our children.

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When it comes to guns, personal rights and public safety need not be an either-or proposition.