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Georgia private schools take stand for common-sense gun laws

The heads of many Georgia private schools signed onto a letter to our nation’s leaders that will appear in a full-page ad Friday in the AJC.

Signed by nearly 50 school leaders, the letter implores political leaders to pass gun laws that will help prevent school shootings.

Private schools in New York state ran a similar full-page ad in The New York Times on Feb. 25. Signed by 156 school leaders, their letter was directed at President Donald Trump and said:

As the recent events in Parkland and the scenes of other mass shootings teach us, the easy and virtually unrestricted availability of highly lethal, semiautomatic assault weapons and ammunition places our schools, most especially our children, in jeopardy.

We implore you, Mr. President and our national legislative leaders, to do everything necessary to stem this tide of senseless gun violence. Address, and ultimately deny, unrestricted access to weapons and ammunition that have no legitimate sporting, recreational or protective purpose.

The local signees, representing 47 private schools, are:

I assume there will be discussion about the schools missing from the letter, and there are a few notable absences.  

I am delighted to see this act of courage by the independent schools of Georgia, which often are assumed to be immune from gun threats.

But as the letter points out: 

It does not escape us that what took place in Parkland, Sandy Hook and Columbine could happen at any of our schools. We prepare and plan; we consider arming security guards and outfit our campuses with panic buttons, cameras and automated locks; we invest in mental wellness programming and employ the very best school counselors; our youngest students crouch in closets and behind closed doors as we conduct active-shooter drills; our teachers attend training sessions in which we ask them to risk their lives for the sake of their students. 

Despite our best efforts, we recognize that we do not have the power to prevent individuals bent on violence from acquiring the weapons used in recent school shootings. We are writing because YOU have that power. We implore you to enact the common-sense gun laws supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans. We can no longer abide your inaction.

In the wake of this most recent tragedy, we watch as the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their peers across the country organize and speak out against the federal and state governments’ failure to act. In the midst of grief and fear, these young people exemplify courage, leadership, empathy, character, compassion and respect for others—the qualities we hope to instill in all of our students. 

And so we are hopeful. While we cannot enact legislation to prevent senseless gun violence as you can, we can empower a generation of young people to take a stand and become the leaders we so desperately need. We will follow their example. School safety is paramount to all of us. On behalf of our students, parents, faculty and staff, we pledge to continue to do our best to protect our school communities, and we challenge you to do the same. 

NOW is the time for action.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.