Back in October, after the mass killing at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., I listened intently to President Barack Obama’s address.
I heard a man, a father, a president, who was angry and at his wits’ end. The president stated that it doesn’t seem to matter anymore how frequently these murders occur, and whether or not the victims are schoolchildren, college students, movie theater patrons or military serviceman, Congress seems unwilling to act. Another round of the familiar, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” and then what. Nothing. The president’s call was for action beyond prayers. But what action?
Definitely not signing another futile online petition. Definitely not the “point and click” activism that seems to be favored by today’s culture. What needs to happen is legislative action starting at the lower levels of government. Consider this: School boards throughout the United States make up the largest group of democratically elected officials in the world.
Where our Congress has been impotent in addressing gun reform legislation, and our state legislatures (save Washington state) have failed miserably to advance this issue, district school boards can lead the way.
On Oct. 6, the Board of Education for the Santa Fe Public Schools unanimously passed a resolution calling for gun purchasing reform legislation. This isn’t a “feel good” resolution, but one that calls on specific steps to be taken by our legislators to help eliminate the cash-and-carry attitude that relates to purchasing firearms.
New Mexico has 89 school boards. With a minimum of five members on each board, this is well over 400 elected officials representing hundreds of thousands of constituents — parents, teachers, kids, community members. Voters. It’s about unleashing this potential power.
As members of the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education, we have sworn an oath to uphold the laws of the Constitutions of New Mexico and the United States. Our legislators have done so as well. We affirm our inalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and this right must extend to our government making every reasonable effort for our people to be free from the constant threat of gun violence.
Our resolution specifically calls on our Northern New Mexico delegation to introduce in the upcoming session legislative reforms that address the means by which firearms are purchased or transferred in the state of New Mexico. It calls for criminal background checks, including convictions for domestic violence and abuse on all firearm purchases, whether from licensed gun retailers, gun shows or Internet sales. As well, these checks must include a purchaser’s history of mental illness or disease.
We recognize that throughout New Mexico and the United States there are millions of law-abiding gun owners for whom guns are used for hunting, sport, as well as the lawful protection of self, family and property. Our resolution protects an individual’s right to gun ownership by affirming Article 2, Section 6 of the New Mexico State Constitution.
As school board members, we have the responsibility not just for the education of our children but a moral imperative for keeping them safe. My intent in crafting this resolution and presenting it to our board is that our action gain traction as a movement among schools boards throughout New Mexico and the United States. A first step in stemming the scourge of gun violence must be in reforming the way guns are acquired.
When we consider the safety and well-being of our citizens to be of greater importance and priority than the unfettered access to a person’s ability to acquire a firearm, we will see serious gun reform legislation.