By Joe Resteghini
Editor’s note: Resteghini is the principal of Champlain Elementary School in Burlington. He lives in Colchester.
In 2019, after a white supremacist racist killed 51 people with an assault rifle, New Zealand put a policy in place to ban assault-style weapons and buy back guns already in the public. It took the New Zealand government seven days to pass this legislation, knowing that it would keep military-level guns away from people who simply should not have access to them.
As a school principal and a father, the mass killing in Uvalde, Texas, May 24 is like reliving a nightmare. Except it wasn’t a nightmare. The community of Uvalde, the relatives of those murdered have had their lives ruined by a crazed murderer who bought assault-style weaponry and ammunition in mass quantities without any level of resistance or checks and balances.
Going to school — where I am the leader of an incredibly dedicated staff of educators, and where we shepherd our students under the promise that “school is your safe place” — has me feeling concerned about not being able to look our future leaders in the eyes and tell them not to be scared.
The time for thoughts and prayers is over. The time for reform is upon us. When the destruction of the community in Sandy Hook happened, and our government did not have the will to act, we let that moment slip away.
Every single elected official needs to respond to the crisis of sensible gun legislation right now.
At the school level, we hear discussion of walkouts and teachers striking, but to the politicians in the ivory towers, this doesn’t affect them. These measures would hurt the working parents who need to trust that school is a safe place, so that they can raise their children and go to work.
Las Vegas, Buffalo, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Uvalde happened. In fact, there have been over 200 mass shootings occurring since the start of the year… These nightmares are real. I am asking that we take a systemic approach to avoid a decimation of life from occurring again, which starts with gun legislation reform that takes assault weapons off the table as an option for murderous lunatics.
Without trying to frighten the reader, or be overly dramatic, I can say with certainty that we are on the clock until another murderous rampage occurs at a school full of children. The only way to stop that clock is to do something about it. My platform is the pen. Your platform is your vote.
You may become distracted by calls for attention to mental health crisis, police response, the influence of video games and technology, the tincture of time, but please, in November, pinch yourself. The one factor that can bring substantive change, that might have prevented deaths in Uvalde, is: keeping military-grade weapons out of the wrong hands.
I love the students and community I serve. I love the educators at my school and beyond. I love our country. We have hard work to do to protect people’s inalienable rights to education.
Call your elected officials. Ask them about their ideas for policy reform. Tell them that you are quoting them, and be upfront that this is their opportunity to represent those sweet babies and their teachers. If they are not willing to stand up, vote them out.