As our children go back to school across the nine school districts of the 1st Franklin and across the Commonwealth, and we mourn yet another recent public mass shooting—this time at a mall in Jacksonville, Florida—we also mourn our lost sense of security, and our faith in our schools as safe havens where our children and educators can focus on learning and growth. As both a parent and an educator, I believe that every child deserves a safe and enriching educational environment, and every teacher deserves to be able to focus on teaching. The levels of gun violence in America are completely unacceptable.
Massachusetts must stand firm against the current attempts by the Trump Administration to justify arming teachers, and we must not only reform our public school funding framework (Chapter 70), but also invest more in mental health, trauma support, and other necessary resources for healthy children.
It would be absurd to agree to Betsy DeVos’ latest suggestion that federal education funding be put toward guns, even if every school in America had enough desks, enough books, enough teachers, enough mental health specialists. But many schools are desperate for more resources, including our schools in the 1st Franklin. As someone with two terms of elected School Committee experience, I have delved deep in to school budgets and worked with my colleagues to make hard decisions. As a State Representative, I will work hard to ensure that every possible dollar goes into serving and supporting our children, not putting more guns around them.
But school funding is not enough. I am proud that Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the U.S. Probably not coincidentally, we have one of the lowest rates of firearms deaths. But we are not free from the fear of mass shootings, because there is nowhere in America today to enjoy such freedom. We must ensure that our gun laws are enforced, and particularly that men with a history of domestic violence are prevented from purchasing and owning firearms. We must challenge cultural norms that idealize violent masculinity and stigmatize mental health.
Nor are we free from complicity in the nation’s gun violence problem, as was so courageously demonstrated by the participants in last week’s 50 Mile March of students from Worcester to the Smith & Wesson headquarters in Springfield. Massachusetts ranks consistently in the top 10 states for economic output from the production of firearms and ammunition. I, too, am concerned about the loss of jobs if those manufacturers go elsewhere; however, I am more concerned with the loss of life from the guns produced here. I am ready to work with other legislators to find creative solutions and incentives to replace any jobs lost by imposing stricter regulations on arms manufacturers.
We send our kids back to school this week not knowing when or where the next mass shooting will happen, but knowing it will. Enough is enough. Everyone in our state government should be doing everything possible to ensure that children and families are safe and supported, and I will be ready on Day 1 to make sure that Massachusetts sets a national example on this issue.