by Jeremy Cooney

Going back to school shouldn’t be scary. It should be a celebrated time for students to see their friends and start the learning process. I remember my biggest worry before starting a new grade was whether my mom would buy me the newest trapper-keeper after significant begging (she never did, it cost too much). Today, the new normal has parents buying bulletproof backpacks, door jams, and tracking devices. 

Recently, a kindergarten teacher from the west side of Rochester told me about running active shooter drills for her five-year-old students. She files them in to a dark closet and instructs them to be quiet; a frightening and confusing process to these small children. Teachers choose their careers to educate and guide the next generation, not to become armed soldiers who protect their classrooms from the next shooter.

These drills and this fear are reminiscent of the “duck and cover” days of the 1950’s. Is this what it means to make America great again?

Following the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999 we pledged to never let this happen again. President Clinton said that “children have no duties, except to their studies and their families. Our duty is to protect their lives, and give them futures.” Twenty years later, we are failing that duty.

To me, it’s simple. Everyday we don’t act, we put our kids at risk. 

This year alone, there have been over 20 school shootings in the United States, including the mass tragedies at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL and Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, TX. How many more children will die before we finally reform gun policy?

As a lawyer, I understand and respect the Second Amendment. I firmly believe most lawful gun owners do the right thing, and do not intend this as a debate over the merits of gun ownership. But we must pass laws and put commonsense policies in place that will save lives.  This is about preserving the lives and well-being of our fellow citizens.

We need to stand up to the NRA and those who wish to keep the New York Senate from passing common sense gun safety legislation. The time for action is now.

There are four pieces of legislation that should be passed in the next year to ensure the safety of our children: 1.) enact penalties for gun owners who negligently store firearms when living with a child; 2.) require a mandatory ten-day waiting period for all new gun purchases to decrease heat-of-the-moment crimes and reduce acts of suicide; 3.) pass the Extreme Risk Order of Protection which would allow the police to remove and prevent the purchase of firearms by a person who they believe would harm others or themselves; and 4.) carve out more state funding for local police departments to offer gun buyback programs to take unwanted guns off the streets.    

This is the time for political courage. Enough is enough.

Teale Fox