Confusion. Helplessness. Panic. I felt a whirlwind of emotions when I learned there was an active shooter situation near Tates Creek High School, the school was on lockdown, and my son was inside. Thankfully, he and the other students who were in the building were not impacted, but a boy in the neighborhood—just 17 years old—was fatally shot in the head. Yet another young life tragically cut short by an act of senseless gun violence.
Just two days earlier, I attended a forum at the school where some 250 parents gathered with school officials, city council members and law enforcement to discuss solutions to an apparent problem the school is having with armed students.
In just 12 days, three Tates Creek High School students were found with guns. Two of those guns were loaded. I listened as parents desperate for answers questioned authorities on what actions could be taken to prevent guns from entering the school. The meeting became heated at times, but there was one thing we all agreed on: guns simply do not belong in schools.
The issue of gun violence is near and dear to my heart. I was gutted by the shooting at Sandy Hook School that stole the lives of 20 first graders and six educators, and vowed that day to take action to help end the scourge of gun violence that is ravaging our communities. I soon learned that I wasn’t alone, that other moms were feeling this same resolve and were coming together to brainstorm commonsense measures to end gun violence in America.
I joined the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and have been fighting ever since. The organization has grown from one mom who started a Facebook page in her kitchen to the largest grassroots movement of Americans organizing to end gun violence, with over 3 million members and a chapter in every state.
Certainly our community leaders and elected officials should do everything they can to keep guns out of schools, but parents have a responsibility too, and it starts with responsible gun storage.
Over 2 million children in the U.S. live in homes with guns that are unsecured—1.7 million of those are both unlocked and loaded. Since 2013, there have been over 200 school shootings in America. In over half of those, where the source of the gun was known, the child got the gun from home.
One of Moms Demand Action’s priorities is to ensure more Americans practice responsible gun storage to prevent children and teens from gaining access to guns. Our BeSMART gun safety program encourages gun owners to follow a few simple guidelines: Secure guns in homes and vehicles—locked, unloaded and stored separately from ammunition; model responsible behavior and assume children know where your guns are stored; ask about unsecured guns in the homes that your children visit; recognize the risks of teen suicide; tell your peers to practice responsible gun storage.
It’s natural to feel helpless when the safety of our children is compromised but there is more we as parents can do. Let’s start with responsible gun storage. Then, let’s demand our elected officials reject legislation aimed at weakening our state’s already lax gun laws. In January when the Kentucky state legislature is back in session, Moms will be organizing to do just that.
If you’re a parent, or simply a considered citizen, who wants to keep guns out of Kentucky schools, join us. Text JOIN to 64433.
Pam Mangas is a Tates Creek parent and member of the Kentucky Chapter of Moms Demand Action.