HUNT COLUMN: Way past time to figure this out

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, June 8, 2022

By Cathy Hunt
Troup County School Board Chairwoman

It’s Pentecost, and I got filled up with the Holy Spirit at church, where we had a marvelous festival service, which included beautiful music in several styles and languages. An ensemble sang John Rutter’s new composition “Prayer for Ukraine” in Ukrainian. It’s important to pray for Ukraine. And Buffalo. And Uvalde. And so many other suffering places.

Let me go ahead and say that this is not an anti-gun article. For most of my adult life, I have lived with one or more guns in my house. Right now, we have one pistol, and I know how to use it. It does make me feel safer on those rare occasions when I spend the night alone here. I do not hunt, but I have no problem with responsible hunters.

I am not speaking for the school board here. I speak as an experienced personal advocate for students and teachers and everyone else in our schools. Schools must be safe havens. In Troup County, in order to be proactive instead of reactive, we have been beefing up security for several years. Because interest in those measures always resurfaces after a mass school shooting, we are preparing a report on all the systems we have in place.  Active shooter drills are nothing new. They started more than 20 years ago with Columbine, when I had been in the classroom for 18 years. I remember practicing herding my students into the back of the room away from the windows after we pushed all the desks toward the door. Among other new measures, we had to keep our classroom doors locked at all times.

I think teachers will instinctually put themselves between their students and danger while we corral and shush them. Certainly the two heroic teachers who died last week at Robb Elementary were doing everything they could to protect their kids.

I cannot imagine the trauma of living through a Sandy Hook or Uvalde. Thank God nothing like that has happened anywhere close to here. But there have been too many instances (one is too many) of students in possession of guns on or near a campus. Hopefully, there was nothing nefarious behind any of those. Maybe it was a hunting rifle accidently left in a vehicle. Maybe a student wanted to show a handgun to a friend to feel like a big shot. It doesn’t matter why, but society has become way too casual about guns. However, students have been good about reporting suspicious activity. Who knows what tragedy — even accidental — their “see something, hear something, say something” ethic may have averted.

There are two things I firmly believe at this point: 1) arming teachers is a bad idea. They didn’t sign up to be security guards. I would have quit rather than be forced into that role. I imagine being overpowered by teenage boys bigger than me if I carried; I imagine not having enough time to unlock the cabinet where my gun is if I didn’t. 2) No 18-year-old should be able to walk into a store and buy an assault-style rifle on the spot, whether he intends to murder 10-year-olds with it or not. The least our legislators can do is work on that last one instead of forestalling even a debate on the matter. Figure this out. It is way past time.