The United States is a nation caught in an epidemic of gun violence.
In 2017 there have already been 7,596 deaths due to guns and 174 mass shootings, according to data collected by the Gun Violence Archive. And nearly 338 of those killed have been children 11 years old and younger, while more than 1,621 were children between the ages of 12 and 17.
Yet despite this horrific data, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would allow teachers and other employees in education to carry guns on school grounds.
Senate Bill 383, also ironically known as the School Safety Bill, would allow teachers, as well as administrative staff and maintenance workers, to carry concealed firearms into schools. It was vehemently opposed by 15 Sandy Hook teachers who had survived the 2012 massacre. The teachers wrote a letter denouncing the bill that was read on the Senate floor by Congressman Daylin Leach.
"We are educators who survived that fateful day on December 14, 2012. We would like to make something clear: We would NOT have wanted that option, nor would it have made us or our students any safer. In fact, it might have made things even worse," the teachers wrote. "You must understand how fast shootings happen and how chaotic and confusing it is. We had no way to determine from whom and from where the gunfire was coming. This is not the movies. In FIVE MINUTES 26 people were dead in our school."
The teachers also pointed out that guns could be left unattended, accidentally discharged, or taken from their holster by force. Even if the gun owner is a responsible individual, things happen, and when a gun is involved those things can be life-altering.
The Second Amendment guarantees that America's relationship with guns remains a complex one, but the Constitution also enshrines a right to life. The U.S. was built on compromise, and the mark of a functional democracy is a government that navigates the friction that arises when personal beliefs infringe on the inalienable rights of all its citizens.
America may never be a nation with a complete gun ban, however, it can be a nation with effective gun laws that keep firearms responsibly regulated and innocents safe. Bill 383 is absolutely not that.
The bill was sponsored by Republican Congressman Donald White who insisted it would be useful for rural communities that face slower police response times.
"To be clear, this bill is not about the Second Amendment," he stated while introducing the bill. "It’s about permitting the 500 school districts of this Commonwealth to have greater choices when it comes to protecting our most precious resource – our children."
The bill will now move to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for a vote. Yet if it passes, hope remains for those opposed to this ludicrous bill as Gov. Tom Wolf has made it clear that he will veto the legislation if it makes it to his desk.