OPINION | By Peter Cunningham
Okay parents: It’s your turn.
The teachers have walked out demanding better pay. The students walked out demanding an end to school shootings. It’s time school parents used their collective power to demand commonsense gun laws. The current election cycle offers the perfect opportunity.
Tuesday, September 4, is the day after Labor Day and the traditional opening day of school. It’s also crunch time in an election year when control of Congress is in play. The stakes have never been higher.
What if every parent in America kept their children home from school on September 4 until Congress passed a package of gun laws that currently enjoy overwhelming support? That includes background checks for all gun purchases, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and funding for gun research.
I floated the idea on Twitter and lots of people raised complications. Parents need to go to work and poor kids need the meals that schools provide. Teachers need the pay after a summer when many of them don’t collect a paycheck.
And in a country with 300 million guns, these reform won’t eliminate the possibility of another school shooting like the one that happened in Texas this week and in Florida back in February. According to early reports, the Texas shooter used guns acquired legally by his father.
Still, it’s a needed step in the right direction.
The question is, how long would Congress delay with millions of schoolkids staying home? A day? A week? Two weeks? With a major election less than two months away, parents would have their attention.
Would employers support it and give some parents time off? Could retired adults and non-working parents coordinate to supervise kids for a few days to help out some parents who need to work?
Could teachers come into school anyway and pack lunches for the kids who desperately need them? Could they offer online assignments?
Nothing so far has moved Congress to act. Not Parkland or Santa Fe or Columbine. Not the deaths of 20 first-graders in Connecticut, the murder of 49 in Orlando, the murder of 58 people in Las Vegas and the injuring of hundreds more. More Americans have been killed by guns in the last half-century than in all the U.S. wars combined.
The only thing that members of Congress understand is self-preservation and they need to know that if they don’t support these laws, their careers are over. They have been promising reforms forever but they have done nothing.
The polls are clear. The public supports commonsense gun safety reforms. But Congress will not act unless they fear for their jobs.
Some parents, of course, are law-abiding gun owners and proud supporters of the Second Amendment. Some are members of the NRA and would be conflicted. Some would no doubt refuse to participate.
But these proposals do not infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners except for the small minority who feel the need to have weapons of war in their personal arsenals and gun magazines large enough to take out a whole classroom without pausing to reload.
Most gun owners are hunters and target shooters and people who might want an extra measure of protection in their homes. They’re not the problem. The problem is a gun industry that makes guns easily accessible to people who shouldn’t have them. The problem is a gun lobby that will not give an inch to save a life.
So how about it, parents? Are you ready to use your power for good? Are you ready to demand protection for your kids?
Mark the day. Talk to your employers. Talk to your school and your fellow parents. Talk to your member of Congress. They will be home this August shaking hands and looking for votes.
Congress can act in a day. The president can sign it in a day. We don’t need much debate. We don’t need a hearing. We don’t need amendments. We need action. We need a national gun safety act passed into law.
If we all keep our kids out of school for a few days, I bet they will listen.
(see original blogpost here)
Peter Cunningham is the executive director of Education Post. He served as assistant secretary for communications and outreach in the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama Administration. Prior to that he led communications for Chicago Public Schools.