By Janice Haschak
To those of you who find it impossible to fathom giving up your right to own assault weapons, to those of you who believe the cost of innocent lives is the price we must pay so you can have your “rights,” I say: When will it end?
My students, my family, my friends, and the citizens of our freedom- loving country have rights too. We have the right to not live in fear of being shot. We have the right to go to concerts, schools, churches, nightclubs, shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, universities, workplaces, and our homes without the fear of being gunned down. Our rights are laid out in the Declaration of Independence — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You have taken those rights away from us.
Instead of banning assault weapons, you want to arm teachers. Why? Tell me why anyone needs an assault weapon, and tell me that the benefit of allowing these weapons outweighs the cost. Don’t tell me this is a “mental health issue.” This is an access to guns issue. People will always have times of loneliness, depression, and sometimes even hate-filled rage — this is the human condition. But in our society, it’s immoral to allow people to express their rage by killing and maiming countless innocent people with a simple pull of the trigger.
“ Instead of asking teachers to make schools a battleground, why aren’t we banning assault weapons that have no place in civilized society?”
Donald Trump is right, we teachers love our students, and we are very protective of them. In my classroom I try to provide a place of joy and a feeling of safety for my students. We read classics such as Black Beauty and Little Women. We play music and learn about Beethoven. We paint and sing and laugh, and I do my best to show them kindness and gentleness so that they will stay kind and gentle as they grow. I purposefully guard what I say in front of my students, just as I did with my own kids when they were young. Why take their innocence? Let them be children.
When we had our recent lockdown drill, I was relieved that none of my kids asked specifics about why we were doing a drill. I don’t believe our young kids need to know everything about our harsh world. This is the protection I can offer my students, but I will never offer the protection that our president has proposed. Instead of asking teachers to make schools a battleground, why aren’t we banning assault weapons that have no place in civilized society?
Recently Willits Unified was on heightened alert as one of our students seemed to pose a threat to the schools. Some concerned parents kept children home, teachers were visibly stressed, and administrators tried to calm nerves.
We were all operating under the recent mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Imagine if this same student, in the same situation, lived in a country that didn’t allow access to assault weapons. Imagine if this student was not able to buy a gun. How would his rage manifest? A fist through a wall or a foot through a window? Maybe — but we certainly wouldn’t have to worry about a mass shooting at our schools, and we certainly wouldn’t be talking about arming teachers in the classroom and making our schools a battleground. You who refuse to rethink your “rights” to own assault weapons have blood on your hands, and you have taken away my rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Janice Haschak is a fourth-grade teacher at Blosser Lane Elementary School in Willits and a member of the Willits Teachers Association.