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Not Again! When Will it Ever End?

 By: C. Ron Allen

In a few days, our children will head back to school for the new year. And I can only imagine parents sending them off with some sage words of caution: look both ways before crossing the street, don’t ever run out from behind a stopped bus and if someone assaults you, don’t fight back. Instead, tell the teacher.

Let me add a few new tips: keep an eye out for suspicious people and backpacks, and always have an escape plan in case you need it.

Amidst the annual tradition of meeting new teachers and making new friends on day one, students and school employees will now have to be more concerned about safety.

And while it is a topic that many parents and certainly school officials would rather not address, it needs to happen.

Administrators are tasked with creating an environment that’s conducive to learning. They also must assure their stakeholders that their children will be safe on campus.

(It’s a crying shame that school officials are having trepidations on whether to have the public welcome back their students on the first day of school because of fear of an attack.)

In the wake of the last four mass shootings, which left at least 40 people dead, and a nation mourning yet another senseless act of violence, everyone is asking when will the mass carnage end.

As of my penning of this column, this 252nd day of the year, we have seen 255 mass shootings in this country in which four or more people were shot or killed — not including the shooter.

Last year, gun violence snuffed the lives of 39,773 people – roughly 109 people a day – in the United States. And that does not include the survivors of gun violence who are disabled, traumatized, many for the rest of their lives.

As I have opined on these pages after each mass shooting, until the American people confront the issue, the massacre will continue.

Since repeated pleas to our elected leaders for gun control keep falling on deaf ears. It’s way past time for Americans to adopt what I call the Marjory Stoneman Douglas approach.

The only way to send the message for tighter gun control laws is at the ballot box, which means the time to start registering voters is now.

Or, as author Jenna Blum puts it, the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is 75.4 million millennials with a vote.

I was comforted this week when one of my students assured me that the only way to feel safe in schools these days is to pray.

While I concur, I submit that the way we usually live our lives has changed.

Unfortunately, mass killings have become the new normalcy in our country. We now expect to live our lives with a sense of fear and anxiety, and while it may not consume us, it will always live with us.

Let’s face it, there was a time when there were sacred zones in our communities: schools, churches, synagogues, malls, and even parks. These days, anyone could be mowed down by a hail of bullets at any time in almost any place.

As we saw recently, you could be walking your family on your block, shopping for school supplies at the mall, worshipping your creator in what was long considered a haven, or enjoying a movie in a cinema. You do so at a risk. No place is safe anymore.

People are jittery and you can’t blame them. I saw hundreds of revelers in Times Square scattering recently after a motorcycle backfired. They thought it was gunfire.

If the United States had banned the general sale and ownership of assault weapons like almost every other civilized country, those 40 men, women and children in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin; Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio, still could be alive today.

In the coming days, I encourage parents, counselors and mentors to begin healthy, meaningful and productive discussions with your children about the events.

These are sensitive topics that need a firm, yet understanding approach and while there is no one way to address tragedies with children, like adults, our children also need to process their emotions.

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