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'Band-Aids' won't solve gun violence problem

I am responding to the opinion piece, “If we’re ever gonna survive,” written by Steven Saslow, that appeared in the Mail Tribune on Sunday, May 5.

I agree that violence and hate leave us feeling vulnerable, and we most definitely need to do more than just be observers who offer thoughts and prayers and become “sitting ducks.” However, from that point on, I no longer could agree.

We must not “Band-aid” anything; that merely covers up a problem, and temporarily protects it, until it goes away (or heals). In no way does it get to the cause of the issue or create systemic change for the better.

Religious organizations, which are meant to be communities filled with peace and love, must continue to be diligent and cautious in their approach to safety. However, they should not have to “form security teams” to protect themselves when they gather in their houses of worship. The First Amendment says nothing should prohibit the “free expression” of religion. Armed guards at churches, synagogues, and mosques are the antithesis of that free expression.

Schools, which are meant to be safe places that foster growth and learning, must continue to routinely run practice drills for all emergency situations. They must evaluate the effectiveness of, and improve where necessary, the security measures they have in place. As a volunteer in schools in the Rogue Valley, I already have seen many steps taken to ensure the safety of students and staff — fencing and gates, locked doors, visitor check-in, surveillance equipment and the like. Schools have instituted and routinely practice drills for lockdown in place and evacuation.

Of course there is always more to do, but schools should not have to “arm and train to an exacting standard” faculty members to protect our children. Ongoing faculty education and training must focus on the best practices of child development and curriculum. Teachers cannot have even more added to their already overwhelming responsibilities. Having been in education as a teacher and administrator for over 30 years, I see tremendous pitfalls and imminent danger arming teachers.

Public facilities and events, which are meant to be open to all, must be extremely vigilant regarding security and safety. We all have experienced the security lines, security guards and patrols at events — increasingly so since 9/11. The possibility of this happening at every public venue or location is absolutely ludicrous. Our Tuesday market? Hair salons? Theater and music venues? Restaurants? Totally unrealistic in every possible way!

“Let’s start the dialogue,” encourages Mr. Saslow. But in the next paragraph, he excludes what many see as perhaps the most important element of the dialogue. “This is not a call for a gun debate. It’s not about weapons. Elimination of firearms is not the solution, as these acts of violence have been executed with everything from automobiles to nails.” Not addressing the issue of access to guns and mass shootings is clearly one way of “putting your head in the proverbial sand.” If you truly want “productive, constructive dialogue, bringing together our leaders in religion, business, government and education,” you cannot predetermine what is excluded from that dialogue just because you view it as a non-issue. All constituencies together must have a say in the content of the conversation if it is to productive and effective.

After reading the article, I was left quite disturbed. I’m not ready to live in a police state in the Rogue Valley. I’m not willing to volunteer in schools where teachers are carrying weapons. I’m not comfortable going into a church for a wedding or memorial where there are armed guards. I’m not ready to be X-rayed or pat-searched when I go to OSF, Britt, Science Works Hands-On Museum, Master Gardener’s Spring Fair or other such events.

Let’s fully engage in a conversation about public safety with leaders of our community where they are given the opportunity to have all discussion topics on the table from the very beginning. It can happen here. In fact, it already is happening at some levels. Our community leaders are “smart enough” to “accept the fact and responsibility to act.” They need to be provided with an open forum and uncensored opportunity to come together, discuss and evaluate all options, and develop and implement a thorough and thoughtful safety plan together.

Sally Peterson was a teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to Ashland in 2006. She volunteers with several educational programs in the Rogue Valley.