The shock and horror of a school shooting becomes a reminder for me that schools are still seen as safe places, refuges, at times even sacred spaces in a broken world. The fact that we are so surprised speaks volumes about how safe schools feel to most people.
Still, when the collective unity begins to fade, people will begin to ask questions about school safety. Over the next few days, we will be permitted, as a nation, to talk about school violence. We will hear calls to beef up security and add police officers and medal detectors.This, despite the fact that schools are still one of the safest places a child can be. Neighborhoods, city streets, even homes are often more violent than schools. Still, we will collectively reexamine schools.
However, out of “respect for the dead,” we will not be allowed to talk about gun violence, gun safety and keeping guns out of the hands of potentially violent people. In other words, we will be allowed to question the safety of the place where kids learn phonics and fractions, but we will be asked to refrain from questions about the handheld devices that spew metal pellets at deathly speeds.
I am not opposed to gun ownership. I don’t know which guns should be allowed and which ones should be banned. I don’t pretend to know the details or the motives of this event. But I know there are hard questions we need to ask about the culture of fear, the existence of assault weapons, mental health and mass shootings. However, every time it happens, we’re asked to avoid “politicizing” the event out of “respect for the dead.”
If we’re supposed to wait to have this conversation, when is a better time than now?