Gun Violence ‘A Public Health Crisis,’ American Medical Association Says and now the Parkland school shooting seen as turning point for gun control debate

27972537_1454917811304540_6389943950775275166_nJeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat wrote that Parkland could be the turning point in the national and state debate over gun regulations, school security provisions, and mental health services, experts say.

In the week since the Valentine’s Day slaughter of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, thousands of people mobilized on Tallahassee. Most were high school and college students locked arm in arm with Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ activists who also have been victims of gun violence.

Student survivors met with lawmakers, and lawmakers, in turn, responded with a raft of legislation to protect school children but stopped short of banning assault weapons and demanding universal background checks.

Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, said the Legislature’s production of a flurry of gun reform bills Friday was due to the “tremendous civic outpouring of these children themselves.”

“For any of us to say that a call to action did not come from the direct participation of those victims, being able to sit with them and hear them, would certainly not be honest,” Oliva said.

It’s something that the deaths of 47 Pulse nightclub patrons couldn’t get the Legislature to act on in 2016, even though the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence urged Gov. Scott and the Legislature to take up a special session to ban assault weapons.

Largely silent through the course of events since the Parkland massacre, Marion Hammer, who has represented the NRA in Florida for decades, finally spoke up Friday.

“I think it’s political eyewash,” Hammer said. “Just because leadership has done this doesn’t mean that all legislators will support it.”

Asked why lawmakers, including Gov. Rick Scott, who has supported the NRA and voted on legislation favoring less gun control in the past would suddenly pivot to support some gun relations, Hammer said she didn’t “have a crystal ball.”

But she warned: “When you abandon law-abiding gun owners to cater to anti-gun groups there’s trouble ahead.”

Several political experts and advocates cited three main reasons why this shooting is different: the children leading the movement, the timing of the shooting while the Legislature was in session, and a volatile election year where voters are angry at government inaction.

“Not only is it an election year but many lawmakers see the blue wave leading the election year, especially here in Florida,” said Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida.

At least two special elections in Florida turned two GOP legislative seats blue. Democrat Annette Taddeo beat Republican Jose Felix Diaz in September to replace Republican Frank Artiles. Last week, Margaret Good defeated a Republican and a Libertarian to win a seat vacated by Republican Alex Miller.

“Elections matter and many elected officials are moving in a way not anticipated,” Smith said. “Of course it is one thing to have a flurry of legislative activity and another thing to see if these bills move forward and get voted on or watered down.”

Seeing students lead the way was a significant difference between Parkland and past shootings, said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida.

“They headed to Tallahassee in mass numbers but were led by the children who said they had to witness the worst moment of their lives and step over the dead bodies of their friends,” Macmanus said.

The shooting created a unified outrage and mobilized enough people to make a huge impression at the Capitol, she said, and that created the tipping point “when you say enough is not enough.”

And GOP lawmakers recognized that for what it was — a movement.

Parkland students push lawmakers for gun control at Florida Capitol

“Nothing speaks louder in politics than numbers,” MacManus said. “Republicans knew they had to do something or they’d be swamped.”

The way to get intransigent lawmakers to move is when lots of people are angry and show no sign it’s going to dissipate soon, she said.

Students are the future of the gun-violence prevention movement, said Patricia Brigham, first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

“They are future voters and they just lost their classmates, their friends and mentors in a slaughter with a shooter using an AR 15 semi-automatic assault weapon,” she said.

When the Pulse nightclub shooting occurred on June 12, 2016, the Legislature was not in session and did not immediately address the mass shooting.

“Our coalition formed after Pulse and the first thing we did was ask for a special session to address a ban on semiautomatic weapons and large capacity magazines,” she said.

They got dead silence. “So now that the legislative session is underway they have to respond,” Brigham said.

After the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Gov. Rick Scott unveiled a $500 million plan to address safety in schools. USA TODAY

The gun legislation being offered is mostly cosmetic, she added. For example, raising the age to 21 for rifle purchases is woefully inadequate. The Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooter was 26. The Pulse nightclub shooter was 29. The Las Vegas shooter was 64.

“So raising the age does not address the problem which is the easy availability of semiautomatic weapons and large magazines,” Brigham said. She said the Legislature also needs to close the gun show loophole and provide universal background checks.

But she is glad for the chance to debate these issues in the Legislature and glad some of the more extreme proposals are not being embraced.

“I am feeling positive there is finally a conversation happening among our lawmakers about gun violence,” Brigham said. “It shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s a public safety issue that affects all Americans no matter what the party.”

Momentum has been building in Florida since Pulse, said Joe Saunders, the senior political director for Equality Florida. It took the effort of LGBT advocates to force Gov. Scott and the Legislature to recognize the shooting as a hate crime and drop the original narrative that it was a terrorist attack orchestrated by ISIS.

“The fact that the Pulse shooting happened to Latino people who were LGBT did affect the response we got from legislators,” Saunders said. “It affected the words out of their mouth, what happened at that moment and whether they were willing to listen.”

Pulse survivors were among the first to go to Parkland students, provide comfort and stand with them in Tallahassee, he said.

“The world that watched what happened at Pulse are the same people that watched what happened at Parkland,” Saunders said.

The coalition is not pleased that the Legislature has not address background checks and banning assault weapons. And there are huge differences in the governor’s plan and what the House and Senate have laid out. For instance, the governor doesn’t support arming teachers, while the House and Senate propose arming teachers. But at least they are finally at a point where a debate is happening, he said. “It’s exciting that after 10 years the Legislature is willing at this moment to have a conversation about gun safety reform,” he said.

Armed and Academic? What 30 Teachers Think About Guns and now President Trump thinks arming educators will make students safer. The Authors asked teachers if they agree.

Since the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, students, celebrities, and concerned citizens have been voicing their opinions as to what needs to be done to end America’s mass shooting problem. On Thursday, President Trump offered his solution: arm teachers. In a series of tweets, Trump said to, “look at the possibility of giving ‘concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience,’” suggesting that teachers could “fire back if a savage sicko came to a school” and that putting guns in the classroom would “serve as a deterrent to the cowards.” He added, “problem solved” and “ATTACKS WOULD END!” [Emphasis his.]

Trump, a former real-estate developer, has, of course, never been a teacher, never been in a situation like Parkland. So decided to find out what America’s educators think of Trump’s idea. We put a call out on social media to teachers across the country, asking them to send us their honest thoughts on giving guns to faculty. Here’s what they had to say.

What Teachers Think

“Arming teachers in the classroom as a means of protection is not an appropriate or productive way to prevent future school shootings. Not only would this further perpetuate the idea of weapons as a solution, but it would also send the wrong message to the young students in my classroom. I would never want my students to believe that concealed weapons in our classroom are necessary to be safe, and instead would want them to feel protected in our school systems without the need to ‘fight back’ with similar violence. My values are not for sale, and therefore any monetary compensation would not change my opinion on this matter.” —Alex, 27, teaches 1st grade in Chicago, IL

“I have been a teacher since 1991—the majority of that time in a high school. Over the years I’ve seen so many changes to the profession and the students I teach. It seems that each year the responsibilities and expectations of teachers increases but the respect and compensation does not match the demands. I don’t mind that so much because I love the kids. However, I am insulted that the president even suggested the foolish idea that we are trained to carry guns on campus. I’m a teacher, not an armed guard. I will not carry a gun to school—that is for trained security personnel.” —Chris, 53, teaches high school in Parkland, FL

“Adding guns to the equation will not fix the problem. Adding education about the subject will help fix the problem. Teachers need to not be equipped with guns, but instead with more time to connect with their students and educate them on what to do if this situation occurs. Teachers are supposed to focus on teaching, educating, and building relationships with students—not worrying about carrying guns to save our students.” —Julia, 22, teaches preschool in Nelsonville, OH

“I am a second-grade teacher in Parkland, FL. Our school is one of the elementary schools that feed into Stoneman Douglas. We are located about a mile down the road. I am a registered gun owner and I have a gun in my home for defense. I see nothing good about teachers having guns at school. I think it is extremely dangerous and can lead to a number of accidents that will result in losing more lives. We cannot stop the gun violence with more guns. I pray that our lawmakers will have the common sense to throw that idea into the trash and focus more on stringent background checks, waiting periods, raising the age to purchase a firearm, and to ban semi-automatic weapons which have no use in a civilized society.” —Gail, teaches 2nd grade in Parkland, FL

I’m a teacher, not an armed guard. I will not carry a gun to school. “Even if you offered me a $1 million bonus I would not carry a gun. I did not become a teacher because I wanted to be armed; I became a teacher so that I could love, nurture, and teach children. Even if I had a gun I would be too afraid to use it. Guns are scary, as they are meant to be. Arming teachers with guns is only using the problem, which is guns, as the solution.” —Jill, 55, teaches 5th grade in Parkland, FL

“I have training on fire safety, epinephrine auto-injector use, suicide prevention, serving the homeless population, child abuse and neglect, and many more. I have attained credentials that help my students earn college credit, and I attend professional development to hone my craft. Carrying a gun would require training and a level of expertise that is not the best use of my limited time and is not the best way for me to serve students. It certainly is not the answer to solve violence in our schools.” —Lois, teaches 11th grade in Marysville, OH

“The idea of arming teachers is absolutely ridiculous. We already have 500 things on our plate and now we’d have to worry about carrying a weapon? What if a kid gets his/her hands on it? What if there is an active shooter, first responders enter the building, and see an adult with a gun? Who are they going to shoot? The government can’t even fully financially support us as is, and now they want to buy us weapons and train us? Why not spend that money on ensuring that we have the resources we need to get to know our children. If you want to know what to arm us with, check out the Instagram movement #armmewith.” —Andrya, 22, teaches 6th and 7th grade in Miami, FL

“Arming teachers is a frighteningly bad idea. It will not lead to safer schools and it will change the tenor of classrooms for the worse. It is a wrongheaded and fake solution to a problem that legislators use to distract their constituents from the real issue at hand. The easiest way to limit gun deaths in schools is to limit the availability of guns of mass destruction. It’s frustrating that so many children have to die unnecessarily for our Republican legislators to realize that their campaign contributions and other forms of NRA support are not worth the lives of our children.” —Josh, 29, teaches high school in St. Louis, MO

I don’t need a gun, I need lawmakers who put my students’ lives before a civilian’s right. “I will not carry a gun. I am not willing to be a murderer. Arming teachers is a simpleton’s response to appease the fear-soaked culture. Teachers carrying guns diverts the message away from the one our young people are so powerfully sending: We want weapons of war removed from the hands of angry men and boys. I teach; I do not wield a gun. I will, without fear, continue to arm young activists with a sense of agency to do something about the terrorist acts in our schools.” —Ann, 46, teaches 11th-12th grade in Bettendorf, IA

“In my ten years as an educator, I have jumped at any opportunity that will help me better serve the next generation. The suggestion that teachers can better do their job by bearing arms is preposterous and incendiary. All research shows that proximity to guns themselves is dangerous. Additionally, students can’t learn when they feel unsafe. I personally would not feel safe existing in the same room as a loaded weapon, and I can’t imagine children would either. I would leave the profession if bearing arms was required or worse, rewarded. This proposed solution would benefit no one but gun manufacturers, whose bulging pockets are already stained with the blood of America’s children.” —Kristen, teaches middle school in Newark, NJ

“This idea is ridiculous, and no incentive would make me want to participate in training or want to be armed with a weapon. My classroom and students are precious, I feel strongly about protecting and supporting them, but providing a gun is not the solution. Provide schools with counselors, social workers, and training for teachers to support students experiencing trauma or anxiety or depression as so many of our students are. Students need to feel loved to feel safe and empowered…Militarizing schools is not the answer.” —Amy, 31, teaches 8th grade in Lawrence, MA

I will take a bullet to protect any of my students. I will never put a bullet into any of them. “If a policy is passed to arm teachers, I will leave the profession. I am passionate about teaching and I love my students unconditionally. However, there is no place in our schools for weapons. If students are not allowed to pretend to shoot guns with their fingers, what message are we sending if I am openly carrying a firearm? No incentive would keep me in the classroom if I was required to hold a gun. I have never owned a gun nor shot one. I do not want that to change. I would not feel safer. We need gun law reform, not more guns.” —Jessica, 33, teaches 1st grade in Virginia

“Arming teachers is both a terrible and scary thought. What has our country come to that this has become a viable option for ‘safety’ for our children? Imagine 10+ guns on a high school campus at any given time. This would make me feel much less safe on a daily basis, regardless of who is carrying the weapon. Offering bonuses to arm your classroom feels like a slap in the face to already underpaid educators, as well. More guns are not the answer; less guns, and better mental health screenings, are.” —Caylen, 23, teaches 6th-10th grade in Pembroke Pines, FL

“My primary opposition to arming teachers is philosophical. As a teacher, daily I am called to be a counselor, coach, cheerleader, caregiver and surrogate parent, all in addition to the prescribed task of teaching my curriculum. To me, bringing a gun into a classroom is anathema to the very notion of what being a teacher is. I find it akin to arming doctors. The Hippocratic Oath demands physicians ‘do no harm,’ and teaching is a similarly pacifistic endeavor, one in which we work with those who are sometimes the most vulnerable members of our society at their time of greatest need. I would take a bullet for any of my kids—it’s part of the job—but I’d never put a bullet into one of my kids, even if he was shooting at me. I would sooner surrender my teaching license than work for an institution that would support arming teachers, for in doing so, we would no longer be teachers, and our institutions no longer schools.” —Scott, 48, teaches 8th grade in Washougal, WA

“I’m a pre-k teacher for Leon County schools and we share a campus with the adult Ed program and the community college. We practice lockdown drills and have had incidences where we’ve been on lockdown because a gun was on the college campus. I would be more fearful if teachers were able to carry guns at school; it would cause more harm than good. In one of these situations, it’s my job to get my students to a safe space and comfort them in a scary situation. It’s important to keep them calm and quiet, which would be hard to do if I’m also getting my own weapon ready to take down a possible shooter. No amount of training or compensation could prepare me to potentially shoot someone either. And this training would take away from training that potentially could be implemented for educational purposes. I think that this would put another unnecessary burden on teachers who already take on so many roles, when stricter gun control laws would be an easier solution.” —Michela, 31, teaches pre-k in Tallahassee, FL

I already have a concealed carry license, so I would naturally feel safer being allowed to have mine. “Never in a million years would I have chosen to dedicate my life to educating America’s youth had I known I’d one day be asked to carry a gun into my classroom. I may be an English teacher, but I know enough math to understand that more guns do not equal safer schools. What we do need are more counselors/social workers, more parental involvement, and more help from the federal government to get guns out of the hands of our children. I am disgusted by the path this administration is suggesting, yet not surprised that, yet again, people who have never been classroom teachers are writing policy and making decisions for those of us who actually are.” —Kristin, 39, teaches 8th grade in Chicago, IL

“I’d die for my students. In fact, I already do. I die a little bit each time I look around our classroom realizing I couldn’t possibly be everything the forty-two of them need me to be. I couldn’t possibly be their parent, their therapist, their mentor, their confidant, their punching bag, their warm embrace, their time traveler, their bail bondsman, their babysitter, their golden ticket, their solution, their biggest problem, their oracle, their guide, their superhero, and their villain. And although every day I watch them leave wishing they could stay—I’ve got only one thing I can ever be—their teacher. To arm myself with this country’s fear of the intruder out there, would be to deny to them that the real threat is already here.” —Brittani, 30, teaches 12th grade in St. Louis, MO

“Arming teachers is one of the worst ideas that I’ve heard in 22 years of teaching, if not the worst. It won’t make me feel safe. What would make me feel safe is if education was funded the way it should be so that we had supports for students who needed it and resources to support educators in their jobs. Additionally, many educators have said they would actually leave the profession if this happened…during a time when we are already facing a nationwide teacher shortage. Arm me with resources to support my students in my classroom, not with guns.” —Rebecca, 43, teaches 5th grade in Naperville, IL

National Guard before I was a public school teacher. It’s why I’m a pacifist now. One of the things the Army taught was dehumanizing the enemy. I’ve read accounts of teachers who train with guns. What are they told? Picture their favorite student. Then picture that student coming into class with a gun. Then picture shooting him/her. I can’t entertain that scenario. My faith precludes it. Ironically, this is the same faith claimed by the people who are pushing guns into schools. The same people who consistently keep cutting our budgets. I love my students, but I have wept multiple times this last week at the futility of it all.” —Jeff, teaches 9th-grade history, Bettendorf, IA

“As a person of color, I am already at a higher risk of being stereotyped and criminalized for whatever I do. Philando Castile worked in a school, was legally armed, and lost his life because of it. Arming teachers would only exacerbate the problem of classroom safety. You don’t put out a fire by dumping gasoline on it, and you definitely don’t solve school shootings by adding more access to guns, criminalizing mental illness, and turning campuses into the wild west. This isn’t Lethal Weapon where only the ‘bad guys’ get hit by bullets. We need to force Congress to remember who they’re working for and get the NRA and other major lobbyists out of our policymakers’ ears.” —Anonymous, 27, teaches high school in Portland, OR

The day that my colleagues and I are asked to carry firearms is the day I leave the profession. “Hearing about ‘solutions’ like this makes me want to cry. Have I thought about how many small bodies I could shield beneath my own in case of an active shooter? Yes. Do I dedicate my life to my craft? Yes. Do I want to give my life for it? No, but because of the NRA’s grip on Conservative politicians, I might have to. Arming me would make me feel like I don’t have a choice—like I’m in a danger zone simply because I love teaching children how to read. Not only that, but I get nervous when students leave kiddie scissors on their desks that there could be an accident. Can you imagine the threat of a weapon in a classroom? You want to arm teachers? Arm us with the compensation we deserve. Arm us with school nurses. Arm us with the curricular material. As for people who think their hobby of shooting guns is more valid than the life of a child, I have a suggestion. You want guns in the workplace? You go put your life on the line. Enlist in the military and do something productive for our country instead of telling me to put my life on the line.” —Kelsie, 25, teaches 3rd grade in Los Angeles, CA

“I already have a concealed carry license, so I would naturally feel safer being allowed to have mine with me in the school. My hesitation is that it is providing hundreds of guns in a small area to either be stolen or misused. There would have to be strict regulations (i.e. keeping doors locked when the teacher isn’t in the room and background checks/yearly mental health check-ups for the staff).” —Kristi-Paige, 25, teaches 9th grade in Little Rock, AR

“The day that my colleagues and I are asked to carry firearms is the day I leave the profession and never look back. Instead, give me the resources that I need, the pay that I deserve, and the respect that I earn every day by committing myself to the children of our community.” —Christina, 27, teaches 6th-8th grade in Fort Worth, TX

“My father is a police officer. According to him, when entering this kind of situation, the officers have no idea who the shooter is. A teacher with a gun, could easily be mistaken as a perpetrator and their lives would most certainly be in danger. This will cause more chaos for the officers. The armed teacher, thinking they have the perpetrator, while the true shooter may still be at large, will distract them. I also can not imagine teachers having the same training with firearms as police officers, therefore it is not likely, they will take down the shooter. They may even cause injury to bystanders. We need to think about all the complications inherent in this issue.” —Dustin, 38 teaches high school in Marysville, OH

“It would not make me, or my students, feel safer, nor would any bonus conceivable convince me otherwise. Back in September, my school went into soft lockdown. We didn’t know why. We didn’t know when it would end. We didn’t know if we were truly safe to ‘continue with normal school activities within the building,’ the protocol for soft lockdowns in our building and countless others. I didn’t let students near my desk, where I keep extra pencils for them, and I also wasn’t able or permitted to explain why. I spent the entire 20 minutes wondering WHEN I would have to give them the signal to hide, and whether I would know if I should instead give them the signal to run, let alone fight. Those 20 minutes were bone-chilling: I imagined how I would hide my students. I imagined how I could pretend I had no students in my room. I imagined what it would mean if all these schemes failed. At no point did I wish for a gun.” —Kathryn, 28, teaches 7th and 8th grade in Boston, MA

“The idea of arming classroom teachers is nothing short of ludicrous. This would place them in the position of seeing every student in the school as a potential threat. Each student now becomes a possible life that they’ll have to take. Teachers don’t just deliver content. They build relationships. They care about their students’ lives, like a unique extension of their own family, and this kind of bond is what separates good teachers from great ones. Filtering that through a lens of ‘I might have to shoot you one day’ is incompatible with this essential truth.” —Trevor, 30, teaches 11th and 12th grade in Georgia

“I’m a NYC public high school teacher. There is no way that I would ever agree to carrying a gun. It will completely ruin the teacher-student relationship. My job is to mentor, educate and facilitate my students’ learning. Sometimes I have to remind a student to get off of Snapchat and pay attention to the lesson. Imagine how loaded that somewhat minor request would be if the student knew I had a Glock concealed under my Ann Taylor Loft pantsuit? Also, because I’m an AP History teacher, I’d like to back up my claim with some supporting details: Let’s say we want to arm one-fifth of the 3.6 million teachers in the U.S.A., that’s 718,000 teachers. With the cheapest training and discounted Glock, it will cost $251 million to arm 718,000 teachers. If we want top notch training and a full-price firearm, it will cost taxpayers past $1 billion. How can we tell our students—in my case, at a school where 70 percent qualify for a free school lunch—that we can’t afford the same supplies/technology at the nearby private school, but we can foot the bill of arming our teachers instead?” —Sari, teaches high school in New York, NY

Phelan Ebenhack awhile back wrote that days after the deadly mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., the American Medical Association says it is adopting a policy calling gun violence in the U.S. “a public health crisis,” and it says it will actively lobby Congress to overturn 20-year-old legislation blocking research on gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Even as America faces a crisis unrivaled in any other developed country, the Congress prohibits the CDC from conducting the very research that would help us understand the problems associated with gun violence and determine how to reduce the high rate of firearm-related deaths and injuries,” AMA President Steven Stack said in a statement.

The AMA, the largest physicians group in the U.S., says it has supported gun control since the 1980s, and as recently as 2013, the association called the uncontrolled ownership and use of firearms “a serious threat to public health” because “the weapons are one of the main causes of intentional and unintentional injuries and deaths.”

The history of the ban on federal research on gun violence goes back to 1996 when the National Rifle Association lobbied Congress to prevent any gun research that could be interpreted as endorsing gun control. But the author of that legislation, then-Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Ark., told NPR in October he regrets that his law has had a broader effect.

“[It] wasn’t necessary that all research stop. It just couldn’t be the collection of data so that they can advocate gun control. That’s all we were talking about. But for some reason, it just stopped altogether.”

In 2013, President Obama ordered the CDC to resume research “assessing the causes of gun violence … subject to the availability of appropriations.” A spokesman told the Washington Post last year that “our resources are very limited,” and the agency had taken no action.

The AMA isn’t the only major medical association to call for federally funded gun research. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in a recent policy statement, said the legislation has had “a chilling effect and resulted in a dearth of research on this critical topic.”

If the assigned Deputies will not put their lives at risk how can we expect our teachers take a bullet or kill a student? Unfortunately for the NRA, it is time to update the interpretation of the Second Amendment and outlaw assault weapons as well as improve background checks and communication and a system or protocol when the FBI and local authorities receive information regarding a potential threat. We need to look to our foreign brothers and sisters as to how they prevent the increasing number of homicides, especially the mass homicides. This is a National Health Care Crisis and there is no excuse for our politicians not to take the reins and solve this crisis!

And now back to evaluating the single-payer health care “solution.”

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