Today, my five-year-old tells me he had a lockout drill.
“What is that?” I asked him. I thought back to my own earthquake and fire drills. I couldn’t quite remember if I ever had a lockout drill.
My son kicks a rock out of the way and squints up at me.
“It means we lock the door, get on the floor, be very still, wait in the dark quietly. Until our teacher says it’s okay.”
And suddenly I know exactly what a lockout is.
When I first got married and convinced my husband to get rid of his grandfather’s WWII gun, I was mostly thinking of my future kids being involved in an accidental shooting. The fact that my husband had an accidental shooting in the family didn’t help matters.
The Telegraph reports that many accidental deaths caused by guns happened in the last ten years. According to reports, 13 toddlers have killed themselves with guns, 18 other small children injured themselves, 10 injured other people and two killed other people.
In 2009, accidental death by gun was one of my biggest fears.
In what is being called the “deadliest massacre in modern American history” a mass shooting occurred in Las Vegas, where a man killed at least 58 people and injured more than 500 others.
I seem to have so many fears nowadays. Maybe there are more things to stress about lately and/or maybe Social Media makes my anxiety worse. In my mind, there is a hierarchy of worries and topping this list is (of course) the security of my children. Recently, it has come to my attention that what I fear most is my children, both my son and daughter, being killed, basically anywhere at anytime, by some gun-toting individual. History shows us that these attacks can happen anywhere- movie theatres, schools, holiday parties, and most recently concerts. According to a Washington Post article, 949 people have been killed since the first mass shooting in 1966. The victims came from nearly every imaginable race, religion and socioeconomic background, and 145 were children or teenagers.
What makes these numbers scarier is how easy it is for basically anyone to buy a gun. An article I recently read showed how a gun can even be purchased from Walmart. According to CNN Money:
- A background check is conducted only in store purchases. There, gun buyers have to fill out a form from the ATF, or the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
- Required information includes: name, address, place of birth, race and citizenship. A social security number is only “optional,” though it’s recommended. The form also asks questions such as:
- Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
- Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?
- Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any other depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
- Are you a fugitive from justice?
- Have you ever been committed to a mental institution?
- The store then calls the FBI, which runs a background check on the person through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, also known as NICS. The background check can just take minutes.”
What is frustrating, as a mother, is that instead of the government making it more difficult to acquire guns, society seems to be viewing this as the new norm and we, the citizens, are expected to adjust accordingly.
The conversation with my son showed me that just as I had earthquake and fire drills at school, principals and teachers are preparing their kids for possible shootings. There are plans in place and schools have routine drills. A teacher friend told me that “each classroom (in his school) has a backpack of emergency supplies, as well as three door tags the teacher places on the outside-facing doorknob during evacuation. White means ‘clear’, blue means ‘injured’, red means ‘deceased’.”
CNN asks parents and school administration the very important question, Does your child’s school have a security plan? The article outlines in detail an outline for teachers and parents to follow, from crisis response plans and drills to what you do as a parent if your child’s school is attacked.
Parents can now buy a bullet-proof blanket, called “The Bodyguard Blanket.” Made by a company called ProTecht, it is a bulletproof 5/16-inch pad, made from the same materials used by our military, except it’s for kids. They even come in different sizes.
None of this helps with my fears. In fact, it worries me how the conversation is no longer about how to get rid of guns but how to prevent our children from being killed. I am scared and I will continue to look over my shoulder, at the mall or the movie theaters until something is done about the gun problem no one wants to talk about.
The frustration I feel comes not only from the imminent danger to my kids, but also the lack of calling these acts of violence “terrorism” because that word has now been permanently assigned to people with a darker shade of skin. I am also frustrated at the feeling of escalated violence and militarization of a country I call home, the feeling that something is permanently broken and nothing we do can fix it. How we even got into this state –normalization of violence, mental health of society as a whole, easy access to guns, etc.- is a long conversation that I pray that those with some power are having.
What I could do for now is focus on advocating gun control – protesting, petitioning, contacting lawmakers, fighting the gun lobbies because it seems the only tangible thing I can do.
I am done with hoping that simply praying will make all the bad go away.
Sabina Khan-Ibarra is a writer and Muslim Feminist (she is still working on a definition of Feminist that fits her ideology) who advocates and demands equal rights and space for women in all scopes. She is a writer and editor with work published on BlogHer, Huffington Post, and other outlets. She is currently a MFA candidate for non-fiction creative writing at SFSU.