I will never forget the terror I felt when our principal announced over the loudspeaker: "Teachers, lockdown procedure, this is not a drill."
I quickly ushered my kindergarteners behind my desk. “We’re playing hide and seek so we have to be quiet,” I whispered.
Some students cried, a few giggled and others just sat there, confused as to why I turned off the lights, covered our small rectangular window on our door with black paper and was pressing my foot at the base of the door, praying silently that a gunman wouldn’t shoot it open.
After what felt like hours, someone on staff announced that the lockdown had ended. I later found out that a man at a neighborhood bank was seen with a gun, so our school was ordered to lockdown. But what if we hadn’t been so lucky?
Parents are forced to ask questions about classroom safety
I wrote the first version of this essay back in April to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado — which killed 12 students and one teacher. During my research, I learned about the horrifying number of kids who have experienced gun violence in American schools since then — a shocking 311,000 kids according to The Washington Post.
At that the time of my initial draft, an 18-year-old in Uvalde, Texas had not yet purchased the AR-15-style rifle that he would use to kill 19 children and two teachers. At the time of my initial draft, a racist man had not shot and killed 10 innocent people who were just trying to buy their groceries in Buffalo, New York.
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I am unable to keep the gun death count accurate for this essay because the gun deaths are still happening.
Next year my son will be in kindergarten. When my husband and I visited his soon-to-be-school, I scanned the front doors, wondering how secure they were.
Could a gunman gain easy access? Where would my son’s classroom be in relation to an entrance? These are questions no parent or teacher should ever have to consider. But these are questions, that given our uniquely American gun violence epidemic, American parents must consider.
'Gun sense' is necessary to protect our kids
As parents, we have enough to worry about for our kids, without the ever-looming fear of a school shooting. In Nashville, 17 guns have been found in Metro Schools since August. Of those 17 schools, four of them were elementary schools.
Guns are now the leading cause of death among American children and teens. According to Reuters, “The odds that a child will be killed by a gun is 36 times higher in the U.S. than in other high-income countries.” This is heartbreaking in its own right and doubly so, because it is completely avoidable.
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As a mom and educator, I’ve had enough.
The safety of my kids and all children is a non-negotiable for me, but that doesn’t seem to hold true for many of the elected officials we have now. They have privileged their power and their money over the safety of our children and our citizens.
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That is why I joined Moms Demand Action, a non-partisan “movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence.”
That is why I am getting off the sidelines and calling my elected officials to demand they take bold action on gun safety. That is why this fall I am choosing to elect candidates with "gun sense" — men and women who will lead with courage and put our children first.
If you’d like to join the ever-growing movement of Americans committed to ending gun violence in our country, text the word READY to 644-33 to receive information on how to join our Moms Demand Action elections team here in Tennessee.
Megan McAbee holds a master's degree from Vanderbilt University in elementary education and worked for several years as a teacher in Metro Nashville Public Schools. She is a full-time mother and activist for common sense gun laws.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Gun violence: Lawmakers must take action to prevent more bloodshed