Do we value guns more than children?

I am a gun owner and retired school principal. When I heard the news Tuesday about the gunman at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, I was reminded that Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech, Columbine High School and all schools in America have become places of choice for deranged gunmen to make a stand, settle a grievance or get the publicity they seek.

Too many of these individuals target schools because of the horrific impact it has on us as a society. The thought of dropping off our children in the morning and never seeing them again shakes every parent to their core.

Schools do a good job of preparing for these unthinkable events, but they cannot protect every student and teacher all day, every day.

I firmly believe armed guards in schools are not an answer. The way to keep our children safe is to put in place common-sense measures that will keep guns out of the wrong hands from the get-go. We need our lawmakers in Washington to have the moral courage to support comprehensive background check legislation that will prevent dangerous individuals from obtaining deadly weapons.

And we Georgians need to support them when they take these brave and necessary votes, and challenge them when they don’t.

This past March, polling found that 91 percent of Georgians support requiring background checks for all gun sales. Yet in April, Georgia Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson voted against a more modest measure — sponsored by two NRA A-rated lawmakers — that would have simply required these tough-on-crime checks for private gun sales in commercial settings, including at gun shows and over the Internet.

Background checks won’t stop every incident of gun violence in this country. But they’ll surely save innocent lives. In states that have gone beyond federal law to require background checks on private handgun sales, there are 38 percent fewer women shot and killed by intimate partners; 48 percent fewer guns trafficked across state lines, and 49 percent fewer suicides committed with firearms.

Our Constitution guarantees that we can keep and bear arms. But that guarantee also comes with a responsibility to protect our citizens, especially our children. That’s why the overwhelming majority of gun owners, and even NRA members, are in favor of strong gun safety measures. They know we need to do everything in our power to keep guns away from dangerous people — and our leaders in Congress especially need to take meaningful action to protect all citizens.

I have walked the halls of many schools over the last 36 years, and I saw nothing but dedication and hope. Surely, we as a society value the life of a child as much as we value our right to own guns.

Ellen Minette of Peachtree City is a retired school principal.

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