My journey on the gun topic was a rather serendipitous path. I have been thinking and pondering about gun violence for many years. In fact, I detested guns. I would have arguments with gun owners in my family and would have a very difficult time talking to anyone about it without getting emotional.
I was, of course, taken aback, floored, like all of us during incidents like Columbine High School; the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting; the church in Charleston, South Carolina; the Texas church shooting; and countless more. While all of these events were horrific, it really hit home after Sandy Hook. Being an elementary teacher myself, I was able to picture myself in that situation and it made me shiver.
But even after all the hoopla died down, I was still at a loss on how to help. So I did like most people — talked about it but did nothing. It was not until the 5th anniversary of Sandy Hook that I decided to act. Shortly after, the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School incident happened in Parkland, Florida, which put more fuel to the fire. Watching the youth inspired me to act.
I have a friend named Tanja Murray, who is very active in Moms Demand Action. So I started arranging forums with her where we would show documentaries such as Under the Gun and Making A Killing. Moms Demand Action is bipartisan. The goal of these events were to raise awareness on current laws, and how to regulate, not control.
In attempting to educate myself, my first goal was to see the other side. I stepped out of my comfort zone and started having conversations with gun owners. Some were family, some were friends. I even applied for a FOID card and received it, so I can see what the steps are to get a gun legally in Illinois. I found out it was not too difficult at all. I even went on a few tours of a gun shop with my uncle as well as learn about the many different types of guns and what they are capable of doing.
This then led to marching in Washington D.C. We had a trip planned already, but left a day early to be there for the March of Our Lives. By listening to the high school speakers, I was inspired further to help with positive change.
An article was written about my experience in D.C. and from there, my neighbor, who is a casting agent, contacted me as she heard about my activism. When she told me about a commercial I would be in and that it would include a 10-hour class with other teachers and actually firing a gun, I was hesitant. But I knew if I want to understand the other side, I needed to step out of my comfort zone. So I went, along with six other teachers.
The other Oak Park teachers are Jamie Sloan, Rhona Taylor, and Valencia Williams. The other three teachers were from Evanston, Chicago and Ottawa. To say we shared an unforgettable day is putting it mildly. It was a nerve-wracking experience, complete with 35-degree temperatures, rain, and 30 mile per hour winds — all a good recipe for a firing a gun, right?
What was most impressive was our gun instructor. He knew how we felt, made no judgment, and was so educated. He also agreed that teachers with guns is a terrible idea, and he saw it even more when we were done. He was in Iraq, Afghanistan, is a police officer with a psychology degree, and has a film background. We all felt so at ease with him in such a tense situation.
In closing, that’s my journey so far, and I know I have a long one ahead, but won’t give up this cause. We have over 2,500 views of our commercial on YouTube but need more. I feel passionate as a teacher, that more guns in the classroom will create even bigger problems. The goal is to get as much coverage as we can to promote this cause. After 20 years of teaching, the thought of a gun on my hip while teaching shakes me to the core. Here’s the link: http://www.adweek.com/agencies/heres-what-happens-when-you-take-a-group-of-teachers-to-a-gun-range/