Maybe the solution starts with you

On the Farm column

They are getting closer and sometimes I worry that working in a school makes it even more likely to happen to me.

The day that we do our mock drills, I do not sleep the night before and I am on edge the entire day. These drills are followed by an all-day discussion with each class about their concerns, worries and fears.

I tell them that I don’t want to die protecting them, but I will if I must.

I worry every day about how I would protect my students if placed in that scenario. How do I keep them safe? How do I make sure everyone goes home alive to their parents? How do I get home safely, too? How do I stress to students how important it is to say something to adults who sometimes don’t listen?

I am not by nature a worrying person; I do not consider myself to have anxiety or to dwell on things I cannot control. However, I am worried about one major thing that is outside my control: mass shootings.

I have hesitated to handle this topic, hoping that it was a dying trend, but I also know how rural communities view discussions of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. But I think it needs to be discussed because no place seems to be immune to violence.

I want to start this by saying I have been around guns my entire life. I know how to shoot, I have shot animals and I have shot for target practice. I own guns.

However, never, ever, ever in my life have I ever even thought about aiming a gun at another living human being.

Let me tell you where this comes from. I do not remember how old I was, but I was probably 8 or 9 because my younger brother was just old enough to be annoying me during one of our make-believe games.

Thinking that I was playing, I made a finger gun and pointed it at my brother. I think I remember saying “bang” and then next thing I knew, my father had me by the back of the shirt and was straight marching me into the house with a quick step that my smaller legs could barely keep up with at the time.

I remember getting roughly sat in the hard kitchen chair and a lecture ensued that I have never forgotten. My dad asked me why I was sitting in the chair and I responded that he was angry at me. He asked me if I knew why he was angry, and I told him that I thought it had something to do with playing.

The resulting explanation focused on my pointing my finger gun at my brother. I was told that I NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER point a gun, real or imaginary, at another person.

Pointing a gun at people results in those people dying and never coming back again, and that is bad. I believe that there was also some threats in there about what he would do if he ever saw me point a gun at my little brother or anyone else, ever again.

I then received a thorough spanking and was sat in time out until I stopped crying.

That lecture has always stuck with me. It makes the idea of pointing a gun at another human being (who is not threatening me) an inconceivable notion.

Yet, nowhere is safe and this is the new reality. However, I think can make it safer by teaching our kids and adults to respect life, respect others, respect themselves and to speak up if something worries them. I have to think about how many students or people knew about these shootings ahead of time and convinced themselves that the shooter would never actually go through with it. I know I do not want ever to answer that question or live with that guilt.

To me, it is inconceivable that someone would think that a gun is the answer to any question. Yet there are people who do think that guns and shooting others are the answer. It is becoming too common for me to relax. It makes me worry for me, my family, my students and for the world.

I do not have an answer but I do believe that we need to do something.

One can argue that people who commit mass murders do not follow the law and while that is true, many have zero criminal records prior to the shooting, so they are following the law.

Maybe we need to make it harder to get weapons. Maybe we need to deal with mental health better. Maybe we need to discipline our kids better. Maybe we need to listen better. Maybe we need to speak up better. Maybe we need to deal with hate better. Maybe we need to deal with racism better. Maybe we just need to be better people.

Maybe it starts with you.

Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and completed her doctorate at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca.