Things to Do - Prepare for "When the Bad People Come"

Every night at dinner (well, almost every night), our family sits down together and talks about the events of the day. Usually the girls mention squabbles on the playground, new projects at school, etc - the usual highlights and diversions of an elementary school education. But lately all the girls want to talk about are the drills they keep practicing for "when the bad guys come." Each classroom has a different procedure and one teacher even told the kids that they shouldn't worry, that she'd do "whatever it takes" to keep them safe. F found this funny, stating "no teacher is ever going to have to die for us, that's just crazy, mom."

And then I started crying. And I suddenly became very very angry. Because we now live in a country where educators must be willing to face down an uzi in attempting to safeguard kindergarteners. Because just a few months ago, teachers actually did this very thing. And because we seem to think that it's easier/freer/better to train children to hide in closets and corners rather than just try to keep crazy people from purchasing machines meant for mass-murder. Does anyone else think there is something wrong with the fact that "hiding from the bad people" is the new norm of an elementary education? (And, just so there's no misunderstanding, I love the girls' school and am happy that they are conducting such training, I am just furious that they NEED to conduct such training).

I am not anti-gun. We own rifles and shotguns, and a good sturdy gun safe. My husband shoots and likes planning to hunt (he might even actually go hunting if he ever stops working 65 hours a week). But I am anti assault-rifle. And I don't buy into this whole slippery slope argument - we all seem to agree that the right to free speech does not include the right to yell fire in a crowded movie theater (unless, of course, there is an actual fire) nor does it include the right to lie under oath or to defame someone. So why must the "right to bear arms" include all arms? And all ammunition? I'm sorry but no citizen needs a weapon that can launch 165 lethal projectiles into the air in a few moments.


The problem with such an overwhelming feeling of helplessness, is just that. What to do about it? So I contacted my friend, Cathi, who in the last few months has dedicated the majority of her time and energy to passing common sense gun laws (yup, that's her, in the bright pink sweater, standing behind President Obama). And asked her how we can all make a difference. Here's what we talked about:

* First of all, let's talk about how you became involved, what motivated your activism?

It’s interesting and telling, I think, that you mention F and P's stories regarding the drills. My oldest, J (a 1st grader), came home from school one afternoon and told me about a “stranger drill” they had. He explained they had to hide and be as quiet as could be. He also went on to tell me about the naughty boy in class that couldn’t stay quiet, and “isn’t that silly?” To which I responded with sobs.

It terrified me to think that that a silly 7 year old could mean the difference between life and death for my children at school. It broke my heart to think of the amazing educators and administrators at our school being expected to teach, nurture and encourage my children, but also at the same time, protect them from weapons designed for military use. As a good friend pointed out recently, her husband (an Iraq war veteran) had trained for an additional 3 months to use an AR-15. Its sole purpose is to kill people (not animals). Why was our elementary school working to ensure my children’s safety, but the government was not? I asked my husband (a former Senate staffer) to put me in touch with someone that might be able to get me involved. In our 17 years as a couple (15 of which he spent working for a United States Senator), I’d never asked him to do this. He was able to connect me with someone from Mayor Bloomberg’s organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. I had the opportunity to volunteer for 2 days when MAIG flew-in 120 survivors and family members of gun violence to DC in February.


* Who has come to testify? Please tell us about some of the people you've met

During my two days with MAIG I had the opportunity to attend a Judiciary Committee Hearing with 120+ survivors and victims. It was the second of three hearings on gun violence. I was assisting a woman from North Carolina, in a wheelchair, that had lost her daughter and unborn grandson to gun violence. I also assisted a woman who had lost her 25-year-old son in 2007. She had never flown before and had never been to Washington, DC. But, she said that could no longer just “hope” that something would change. These two women faced incredible obstacles to come to DC to speak to their Senators and Representatives to ensure that their voices were heard.

During day two of my volunteer work with MAIG I was able to accompany a group from Illinois as they attended meetings with Senator Kirk and various Representatives from their districts. I sat and listened as these families told their stories . . . a best friend shot at point blank range by a stalker that bought his gun online; a sister who lost not just her sister and brother and law, but also the unborn child her sister was carrying, when the shooter shot her belly as a final act of horror; a mother, whose only child was one of the 5 killed during the mass shooting at Northern Illinois University in 2008; a friend who had been worried about her friend’s unpredictable and severely depressed boyfriend, before he was gifted a gun from his mother that he used to kill his girlfriend and himself; a mother, who serves her community as a firefighter, who lost her son on a city bus when he used his body as a shield to protect a friend from gunfire; a mother, whose son was leaving church when he was gunned down; and a family, who had lost a precious 15-year old daughter/niece/God-daughter/granddaughter less that 3 weeks earlier, just after she’d performed at President Obama’s Inauguration Parade.

I realized that these people represent the over 30,000 families every year that lose a loved one to gun violence. I read somewhere that it’s the equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing every week for a year. What would our federal government do if a jumbo jet fell from the sky every week? What would the American public do? I felt an enormous amount of guilt. Why was I just speaking up now?

In the days following my time with the people of MAIG, I knew I needed to do more and I joined Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. (The group was formerly known as One Million Moms for Gun Control). Moms Demand Action is a grassroots organization founded by a Mom in Indiana. Shannon Watts felt the same heartbreak and horror that we did following Newtown and on December 14, 2012 she started a Facebook page. Since then the group has grown to over 80,000 Moms (and Dads and grandparents and Aunts and Uncles, etc.) across the US. They are a non-partisan group that has five goals:

1) Ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
2) Require background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases.
3) Report the sale of large quantities of ammunition to the ATF, and ban online sales of ammunition.
4) Make gun trafficking a federal crime with serious criminal penalties.
5) Counter gun industry lobbyists’ efforts to weaken gun laws at the state level.


Moms Demand Action has frequent “calls to action.” For those of us that live locally they have included attending Judiciary Committee hearings and greeting the Sandy Hook Ride on Washington Group amongst other things. I attended the third Judiciary Hearing (before the bills went to mark up) with other members of
Moms Demand Action. We heard Neil Heslin, father of Jesse Lewis (one of the 1st graders killed in Newtown) testify. His voice was so broken he was barely audible. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve heard in my life. As a parent it’s terrifying, as a human being it’s horrifying and as an American it’s shameful. I also met the 26 riders of the Sandy Hook Ride on Washington as they arrived at the US Capitol with other Moms from Moms Demand Action. We heard Senators Blumenthal (D-CT) and Murphy (D-CT) speak as well as Representatives from CT.


Moms Demand Action organized an event called “Moms Take The Hill” in March. 250 women & men from all over the US came to Washington, DC to see their members of Congress and demand action. During that event I was able to attend a meeting with constituents from Connecticut and their Senators, Blumenthal and Murphy. I’ve also attended meetings with staff of my Senator, Senator Warner (D-VA) to express my views as one of his constituents. Members of Moms Demand Action also were in the audience, along with families and victims of gun violence as well as on stage with President Obama and Vice President Biden during the President’s speech on Common Sense Measures to Protect Children From Gun Violence at the White House on March 28, 2013.

* What current bills are under proposal? How would this change the current status quo?

The Senate should be voting as early as this week on a bill that includes universal background checks, anti-trafficking and straw-purchasing measures, and school safety enhancements. It will also vote separately on an assault weapons ban amendment, which may include a ban on high-capacity magazines (over 10 rounds).

An example of how this would begin to change the status quo:
“Jay Plant, of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said universal background checks would save women’s lives. Citing coalition statistics, he said that 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners in states that require a background check for every handgun sale.”

* What kind of opposition is this facing?

12 senators have signed on to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s threat to filibuster ANY new gun restrictions.
The senators include:
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Ron Johnson (R-WI)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Jim Risch (R-ID)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Dan Coats (R-IN)

For more information, click here.

* If someone wants to get involved, what can they do? Where should they start?

It can be as simple as picking up the phone and calling your elected officials. I noted how long it took me to do this the other day. In total, to call 2 Senators and 1 Representative and voice my opinion took 2 minutes and 52 seconds. That’s including dialing and waiting for the phone to ring. I know everyone has 3 minutes in his or her day to do this. You can also write letters, email and use social media to express your opinions to your Members of Congress.

You can also make appointments to meet, in person, with your Member’s staff. Here, in the DC area, we have it easy. If you don’t live as close to the Capitol as we do, you can make appointments with their field office staff or call the DC office and ask if you can set up a video conference via Skype.

You can join momsdemandaction.org and then find your local chapter and attend events through them.



  1. Thank you for writing this common sense post. The internet has been strangely silent about this recently. The piece on 60 Minutes about the Sandy Hook shooting was absolutely heartbreaking and to think that the gun lobby doesn't even want universal registration is mind boggling - you need more ID to purchase Sudafed than you do to purchase a gun. I think the lack of discussion is because of fear of the gun lobby. Shame on us a country is new legislation isn't passed.

    1. And yes - I see the typos. "Shame on us as a country if new legislation isn't passed."

  2. It's a terrible thing when kids need to go through such training... I really hope that there will be changes in the law. As someone not living in the USA I can tell you that people here and in Europe just don't get how easy it is to buy/ get any gun and ammunition in the States. We have much stricter laws- wich still does not prevent everything, but I guess a great deal. I keep my fingers crossed that change will come.

  3. By the way- I love the picture in the header!!!

  4. My 6 year old recently came home from school talking about "lock down training". I knew that they have regular fire drills and earthquake drills (we live in the San Francisco area so this one's pretty important) but I was shocked when she told me about the lock down training. She pretty much described it the same way your kids did above: they're learning what to do "when the bad guys come". She described to me where their hiding spots are in their classroom and how their teacher will lock their doors and put black pictures up against the windows so no one can see in. I was horrified hearing her describe all of this to me but I didn't want to let her see that I was upset about it. I don't want her to feel scared going to school. No kid should have to worry about such a horrible thing happening in a place where they should feel safe - or in any place for that matter.

    I come from Australia where we have very strict gun laws so I'm always very concerned about the lax laws here in America. In fact, before moving here it was one of my major concerns. Part of me felt that I was taking my children from a safe environment and placing them in harm's way. I feel relatively safe here in California where the gun laws are a little stricter than other states but they're still not strict enough. As the person above mentioned, it's crazy that you need to show more ID in this country to buy a pack of Sudafed than you do to purchase a gun.

    I'm not against people owning rifles for hunting or sport but I don't understand why any person would feel they have the "right" to own an assault weapon. Those things are designed with one purpose only and it's in their name - assault.

    Let's hope that stricter laws are brought in soon, and hopefully without another mass shooting to prompt the government to get off their arses and do something about it.



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