If Not Now, When?
As politicians and the media continue their endless debate on the issue of assault weapons bans, background checks, and other gun safety laws in the U.S. — our children and teachers continue to be caught in the crossfire — literally.
Yesterday, the grade school class in Goleta that I support as a volunteer math tutor twice a week was coming in from a sunny recess when a Lock Down Order came down over the school loudspeaker. Twenty students, their teacher, and me (a local professional engineer and business owner) immediately locked the classroom doors, moved out of sight, and huddled behind the waist-high bookcase beneath the wall of windows in the 1960s era classroom. And there we all attempted to hide, with the lights out, in complete silence — with the exception of the few children who quietly sobbed — until the all-clear was given, an excruciatingly long 30 minutes later.
Fortunately, this particular story did not end in another tragedy; the cause of this lockdown was a false active shooter alert at a nearby high school. But for those 30 long minutes — for the children, for their teacher, and for me — the threat was very real. The fear and the tears were real. The frightening memory those 20 children will carry with them into their futures is real.
For me, the lockdown was not only frightening, but also re-traumatizing. My beloved 19-year-old son Jasper, who was a UC Santa Barbara freshman, was murdered a little over two years ago by a 15-year-old with had a handgun he never should have had access to on a sunny weekday afternoon on a residential street, just a few blocks away from where this week’s grade school lockdown took place. Tutoring young kids and supporting our hard-working teachers is one thing I am specifically doing to honor Jasper’s memory. I write now for that same reason, and because I don’t want any other parents to have to experience the profound grief of losing their child to gun violence.
This epidemic of gun violence against and among our children must stop. Our politicians at the state and national level must be pressed to pass more meaningful background check and gun safety legislation. Now. The majority of U.S. citizens want it, our society and children need it.
Anyone who thinks a person’s unobstructed access to guns and assault weapons is more important than our children’s safety, has clearly never experienced an active shooter lockdown with elementary school students, or lost their beloved son to senseless gun violence.
With every new school shooting, street shooting, home shooting, more parents, children, schools, and communities are left in a broken-hearted devastation that no words could ever adequately describe or repair. We asked in 1999 after Columbine, in 2012 after Sandy Hook, last week after Covenant School, and we asked after all the mass shootings in between: if not now, when? I ask again today — with a broken heart and tears in my eyes — if not now, when?