The dawn of a new school year should be a time of joy and optimism for our children. There are new things to learn, new friends to make and new challenges to overcome.
But beneath the surface, there’s a feeling of dread among many educators, students and parents. After all, it’s only a matter of time before another deadly school shooting happens somewhere. More parents will lose their children. More students will lose their educators. More kids will lose their innocence.
We all remember Nov. 30 last year, when four students were killed at Oxford High School in Oakland County, and seven more people were injured. The effects of this tragedy continue to reverberate throughout the Oxford community.
Then, in late May, just before school was to let out for summer, 19 fourth-graders and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, were slaughtered in their classroom.
While these two school shootings received the most media attention last school year, they weren’t the only incidents. According to data from Education Week, there were 41 school shootings with injuries or deaths across the country during the 2021-22 school year, with 37 people killed — including 33 students.
We can’t keep going like this. We can’t accept school shootings as a normal part of life. We must keep pushing our elected leaders to take meaningful action to protect our children.
There is good news. In the wake of the Uvalde shooting and under pressure from fed-up parents, students and educators, Congress passed the first significant piece of bipartisan gun safety legislation we’ve seen in decades. The new law expands background checks for buyers under 21, provides funding for states to implement protection measures and increases mental health funding.
But it’s not enough. More can and must be done at the state level to protect the lives of our children and their educators.
Every time lawmakers consider meaningful and reasonable gun safety legislation, the National Rifle Association and most Republican politicians stand in opposition. The assumption is that the NRA and GOP are simply advocating for those they represent.
But that’s not the case, at least not here in Michigan, where even a large majority of conservatives support common sense proposals to reduce gun violence, according to a survey released Wednesday by EPIC-MRA.
The survey, conducted Aug. 18 to Aug. 23, found:
► 82% of Republicans and 69% of NRA members support requiring background checks for all gun sales, including at gun shows and other private sales.
► 75% of Republicans and 63% of NRA members favor a child access prevention law that would hold gun owners accountable for the safe storage of firearms.
► 69% of Republicans and 65% of NRA members support preventing firearm sales to people who have been reported to law enforcement as dangerous to themselves or others.
► 67% of Republicans and 71% of NRA members back enacting criminal penalties and fines for those who buy a gun for someone else.
► 65% of Republicans and 63% of NRA members support requiring a three-day waiting period between purchasing a gun and bringing it home.
► 61% of Republicans and 65% of NRA members would back a law requiring someone to be 21 or older to buy an assault-style rifle.
► Even 52% of GOP voters and 51% of NRA members support raising the minimum age for all firearm sales to 21 instead of 18.
It’s time for Republican lawmakers to tune out the minority of extremists and pass reasonable gun safety measures that are popular even with their own supporters.
There’s nothing lawmakers should fear politically from voters — and everything to gain — when it comes to protecting the lives of their constituents’ children.
Paula Herbart is president of the Michigan Education Association.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Ray Curry, Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights Executive Secretary-Treasurer Tom Lutz and selected Service Employees International Union members.