By State Senator Lena Taylor
In Spike Lee’s early film School Daze, his central character, Dap Dunlap screams “wake-up” in an effort to get members of his community to come together for a common cause. I have replayed that scene a thousand times as we discuss the issue of gun violence in our country. While horrible stories of mass shootings have plagued our headlines recently, it was a story that appeared in the New York Times in early August that started my prolonged scream within.
I expected the story to be the typical back to school fodder, but was quickly schooled on the latest item that was selling out this year…Bulletproof backpacks. Ranging in cost from $100 to $200, the piece highlighted that some stores didn’t have the protective school gear on the shelves because of the high customer demand. For those looking for other options, they could purchase what was called protective panels. In Florida, parents received their annual swag order sheet for the school….school t-shirt, winter gear and an order form for a $120 false sense of security. It’s time to wake-up.
Instead of legislators doing their jobs and working to pass laws that make sense around gun safety, children are left to fend for themselves. Well, some children, because let’s be honest, not every parent can afford the cost of these bulletproof products. But if you can, they come in the form of notebooks, computer briefcases, furniture, and even underwear.
How has this become the rationale next step in school safety? Why are we failing the residents that have placed us in these offices? More disturbing, why are people allowing legislators to get away with doing nothing? It’s time to wake-up.
When I think back to school, I think Crayola, Bic Pens, or graphing calculators. It never dawned on me that I would come to learn the name, ArmorMe, which is the name of a company run by a former Israeli commando. The owner of the company brags in an article about the company, that you can be “very stylish” while “increasing your survival chances.” Other brands, like Guard Dog Security, is sold at Office Max, Office Depot and other companies. Yet, disturbingly these products are not tested or certified by any federal agency. The makers of these products have had to admit these backpacks may not stop bullets from a high-powered semi-automatic weapon. It’s time to wake-up.
Active shooter training, armed teachers, and open carry in schools should not be the answer. No other country in this world allows their children to go to school under these circumstances. We can’t normalize these options, nor should we accept it. In early August, two mass shootings led to 31 deaths in two states in less than 24 hours. In all, 69 people have been killed in this manner, so far this year. Please wake-up.