Let’s start with the good news.
In June Congress passed the first significant gun legislation in three decades — changes that had been unthinkable just a few weeks earlier — thanks to intense public pressure after 19 fourth graders and two teachers were brutally murdered by a teenager with an AR‑15 in Uvalde, Texas.
The bipartisan bill was signed by President Joe Biden on July 11 with Oxford Education Association President Jim Gibbons looking on along with his wife — MEA member Melissa Gibbons — and two of their daughters who were in Oxford High School when a teen gunman opened fire last Nov. 30, killing four students and injuring others.
The new law includes critically important and popular features to begin to address America’s gun violence epidemic, including expanded background checks for buyers under 21, providing funds to states to implement extreme risk protection measures, and increased funding for mental health services.
No question: these changes represent a good first step that will save lives, but we can’t stop there. Gun violence represents a public health crisis that is the leading cause of death for our nation’s children and disproportionately harms communities of color.
We deserve comprehensive solutions to keep our schools and communities safe. Yet as policymakers refuse to prioritize innocent lives, the clock ticks down to the next tragedy. Simply unacceptable!
Around the same time as Congress was cheering the passage of new gun restrictions, the ultra‑conservative new 6‑3 super‑majority on the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 100‑year‑old New York law that placed limits on carrying concealed handguns outside the home.
We refuse to be discouraged. Large majorities of MEA members surveyed strongly support a number of reasonable gun safety measures, from universal background checks, to secure firearm storage for gun owners, and stricter penalties for adults who allow minors to access guns.
Support for those changes and greater mental health services at schools crosses demographic and party lines in our membership. MEA is committed to continuing our work in this area, starting with a Protect Our Schools Action Team of members, leaders and staff that is developing strategies to move forward.
In addition, delegates to the NEA Representative Assembly (RA) last month approved a union response that includes a National Call to Action, comprehensive advocacy‑building to keep the issue forefront and hold elected officials accountable, and development of resources around trauma‑informed practice and mental health that educators need to support students.
The RA’s move came after a gunman fired on a July 4 parade in Highland Park — killing seven and wounding dozens — just north of where delegates were meeting in Chicago. Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the gathering and said the Illinois shooting came amid mourning for Uvalde.
“This massacre was the most recent reminder, in Uvalde, of the risks that our children and our educators face every day. Teachers should not have to practice barricading a classroom. Teachers should not have to know how to treat a gunshot wound. Teachers should not be told that lives would have been saved if only you had a gun.”
Learn more at www.mea.org/gunsafety, and stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks and months. We will not stop until educators can plan their lessons without also planning for classroom evacuation, not until every child can walk to school and learn in class safely.