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A plan of action on school shootings

Monday morning, Feb. 19, I had the opportunity to meet with Congressman Greg Walden at the Oregon Education Association office in Medford. You probably didn’t know that Congressman Walden was in town.

As a teacher at Ashland Middle School, I didn’t hear about this opportunity from OEA or from Walden’s office, I heard about it from an ORD2 Indivisible email. And in the wake of yet another school shooting, this one in Florida, this one that took 17 students’ and teachers’ lives, this one the ninth firearm attack at a school in the U.S. since Jan. 1, I wanted to hear Congressman Walden’s thoughts on how we can stop these tragedies. I wanted to hear what one of our nation’s leaders was thinking on how we break this cycle of violence.

Based on what I heard, it seems Congressman Walden thinks there isn’t much he, or we, can do. He said he is a strong believer in the Second Amendment and doesn’t support banning the sale of any guns that are currently available to the public. He said he signed a letter to Thomas Brandon, the acting director of the ATF Bureau, asking that he investigate the possibility of regulating bump stocks — the implication being that it was now out of his hands. But I know he also signed a letter in 2015 to then-director of the ATF Bureau, Todd Jones, opposing a proposed ban on certain types of bullets for the AR-15 rifle. He said he supports stronger background checks but, as far as I can tell, he isn’t a co-sponsor of the Fix NICS Act (a bill to fix current gaps in the current federal background check database used when purchasing a gun and supported by the NRA) or has even made any statements in support of it. But I do know that in December 2017, he voted for the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, a bill that authorizes an individual to carry a concealed firearm across state borders.

Overall, I was struck by Congressman Walden’s lack of ideas. He seemed a bit baffled by the complexity of the issue. And it is a complex issue without a simple solution, but I have to ask, where is his outrage? Where is his sense of urgency in the face of yet another tragic loss of life? These are our children, just like the ones I see every day in my school, who are dying! Surely, there is more we can do.

Rather than continue with the status quo, let me offer Representative Walden a plan of action: become a co-sponsor of the Fix NICS Act and push for its passage; make public statements in support of President Trump’s call for banning bump stocks and raising the age requirement for purchasing rifles and long guns; introduce legislation to ban large-capacity magazines; take the recommendation of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and four other medical associations and push to fund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the underlying causes of gun violence; and finally, take a cue from the Oregon Legislature and introduce federal legislation regarding gun violence restraining orders, laws that temporarily restrict firearms and ammunition possession and purchases for people a judge finds to be a threat to themselves or others

These measures won’t stop all future acts of violence, I realize that, but we can no longer wait and hope that shootings like the one in Parkland won’t happen here in Oregon. As we know from Roseburg in 2015 and Springfield in 1998, it’s too late for that.

— Karl Pryor lives in Ashland.