Just over a month after the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School spurred Americans across the country and across the political spectrum to “demand a plan” to combat gun violence, President Obama has presented a powerful plan to curb gun violence in America’s schools and communities.
Conspiracy theorists can rest easy. It doesn’t call for federal agents to confiscate weapons, or try to prevent private ownership of guns. But it does call for commonsense legislation to keep our children, and the rest of us too, out of the line of fire.
It’s a four-part plan for Congress to tackle, supplemented by 23 executive actions to start moving us in the right direction immediately. It calls for stronger background checks to keep guns from falling into dangerous hands, a ban on military-style assault weapons, high capacity ammunition clips and armor-piercing bullets that have been used in so many mass shootings, steps to make schools safer through education and training (not by making schools into armed compounds!), and better mental health services to identify and stop some shooters before they turn violent.
School employees can breathe a sigh of relief. The plan is squarely aimed at making schools safer, not by arming employees, but by training them to identify and deal with problems before they arise, and by helping them respond quickly and appropriately in crisis situations. And it aims to keep guns out of the hands of those who might use them for illegal and violent purposes.
In short, it embraces common sense rather than the overheated, underfactual rhetoric of the NRA and other radical gun groups that place the interests of children behind the interests of gun and ammunition manufacturers.
Of course, the gun lobby is still strong, and it’s already reached deep into its bag of dirty tricks, running a deplorable attack ad featuring President Obama’s children. But this may just be the time that the majority of Americans and New Jersey residents who favor commonsense gun safety measures finally prevail over the radical right and its out-of-touch agenda.
Some states are already moving forward without waiting for Congress to act. New York recently passed the nation’s toughest gun control law, and the New Jersey Legislature seems likely to tackle the issue soon, with 18 bills already introduced. That’s sure to make Gov. Christie squirm, as he struggles to simultaneously run for governor in 2013 and president in 2016. But it’s the right thing to do for our schools and our community.
NJEA members can rest assured that NJEA will be fighting alongside them for smart new gun safety rules that help ensure our schools are the learning centers that we know they need, not the armed barracks that the NRA fantasizes about.
We demanded a plan. We got a plan. Now it’s time to fight for that plan.