Dr. Brian Ricca: It’s time to say ‘enough’

If this graphic from CNN is not staggering to you, please consider this. In the two most recent school shootings, young people lost their lives choosing to go after the shooter. Literally doing what Secret Service men and women do for the President of the United States: they took a bullet for their classmates.

When will this be enough? At what point will we as a society take a stand and demand that our right to bear arms does not outweigh a child’s right to a safe school environment? We compel children to come to school, in the state of Vermont, and it says so right in Title 16 Paragraph 1121: A person having the control of a child between the ages of six and sixteen years shall cause the child to attend a public school, an approved or recognized independent school, an approved education program, or a home study program for the full number of days for which that school is held…

We continue to have school shootings, tragically on a regular basis in the United States, where there is seemingly unfettered access to assault weapons. Weapons in which the perpetrators of this violence can literally hold down the trigger and fire a hail of bullets into the bodies of innocent people. Why are these weapons necessary?

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham indicated in 2013 that assault weapons, like the AR-15 that he keeps in his home, are useful for protection. “I think I would be better off protecting my business or my family if there was law-and-order breakdown in my community, people roaming around my neighborhood…”

The potential for law-and-order breakdown justifies the need for assault weapons to be readily available? If we never had another school shooting in the United States, at the present levels, it would take Canada, France, and Germany more than thirty-seven years to catch up with us. While I am a hopeful person by default, I just cannot believe we won’t have another school shooting unless something changes.

I do have hope in Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. In response to last year’s violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, he called on his colleagues in the legislature to do something. “Congress must finally act and pass commonsense measures that have languished for too long at the bidding of a gun lobby that cares more about its profits than about people. Now is the time for Congress to muster its own courage.”

How many more school children, compelled to go to school, will show more courage, in the face of unspeakable violence, than our elected officials? Are those who are adamant that assault rifles are necessary, ready to show the courage of the young people who recently gave their lives to stop the tragedy from going further? Does the potential for a law-and-order breakdown justify weapons like this continuing to be used to murder innocent people?

Don’t look now, but once again, our children are leading the way for the adults with their courage.

It’s time to say enough.

Dr. Brian G. Ricca is Superintendent of Schools in St. Johnsbury, Vt.

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