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Jennifer White and Jonathan Weinberg: Sununu must listen to the ‘Lockdown Generation’



For the Monitor
Wednesday, August 08, 2018

In English class, we learned the word motif, which is essentially a repeated pattern. It could be the multiple times death is brought up in a story, or how a bird can’t fly. Or, a motif could be individuals slaughtered in school time after time with one common denominator – guns. Just like how one must recognize the pattern of death, we must recognize how our friends and instructors are being needlessly murdered.

The report by Gov. Chris Sununu’s School Safety Preparedness Task Force falls short when it comes to addressing the real school safety concerns of the “Lockdown Generation.”

Students throughout New Hampshire reject this attempt to disguise school-related violence as a result of misplaced kindness in school communities. This idea tries to deflect the blame from easily accessible, high-capacity firearms, the actual root of the problem, to elements such as mental health, culture and neglect of one another.

While comprehensive mental health programs and supportive environments in schools are important, these methods are not and cannot be the only way to keep students safe. Politicians looking to avoid tough conversations on firearms policy will appreciate this deflection, but those of us affected by these lockdowns are tired of elected officials looking for an easy way out.

School shootings fill the news. In 2018, there have been at least 23 school-based shootings. Gov. Sununu’s response was to form a task force, and he told his handpicked task force members to avoid suggesting policies that would conflict with his firm stance of allowing anyone to carry a gun anywhere in New Hampshire.

While we appreciate the hard work of the task force members, there is enough evidence to know that their findings are not enough to end this continued violence. Gov. Sununu prevented the task force from addressing the most central issue in our gun violence epidemic. And by doing so he also failed to acknowledge the opinions of those who are impacted by the results of the report.

In addition to the report ignoring the role of guns in gun violence, it suggests that arming an “individual approved by the school and local police department but (not) a sworn law enforcement officer” is a viable solution for schools. This suggestion neglects the pleas of students, parents, teachers and administrators for the governor and state senators to enforce gun-free school zones.

Inspired by the brave survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre, New Hampshire students have voiced their concerns to the governor, from student-organized rallies at the State House, petitions delivered with hundreds of signatures, student-led meetings with the governor’s policy director, all on the issue of gun violence in schools.

Despite these efforts, Gov. Sununu has had limited engagement with his constituents, prioritizing his A-rating and support from the NRA.

In fact, the governor has repeatedly said that he believes N.H. gun laws are “pretty darn good.” To him, this must mean preschoolers being traumatized by lockdown drills, or students and teachers participating in a moment of silence every week for the new victims. These fears and possibilities are legitimate, thanks to New Hampshire’s “pretty darn good” gun laws. These laws include no license requirement to purchase a firearm, no background check requirement for a private purchase (i.e. at a gun show), and the inability to cross-reference between mental health information and background checks.

If all of this is “pretty darn good” to Gov. Sununu, then he needs a wake-up call.

The governor needs to push for stronger background checks, red-flag legislation and the enforcement of gun-free school zones in the next legislative session. And on behalf of the thousands of students around the state who have marched, signed petitions, written letters, testified and so much more, thank you. We call on Gov. Sununu to hold forums with all students, and to address the actual concerns of those who have been impacted enough by this issue to make them want to fight for change.

(Jennifer White of Hopkinton is a senior at Hopkinton High School. Jonathan Weinberg of Concord is a 2018 graduate of Concord High School.)