Mother’s Day weekend was a busy time for a few Frankfort Independent School students representing gun violence protection activists.
On a beautiful Saturday in Frankfort these students created chalk art on the sidewalks around their school, downtown and in front of their homes with messages promoting justice for Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man allegedly hunted and killed by two white men in a small town in Georgia.
Students wrote messages of compassion: “Justice for Ahmaud,” “We stand with Ahmaud Arbery,” “fight for justice,” “love each other,” “love our neighbor,” “tolerance,” “acceptance.” This event occurred on a weekend other groups of protesters and concerned citizens reacted to the shooting of Ahmaud and the long delay in the arrest of the two suspects.
Gatherings of protesters have congregated way too often in response to horrific acts of gun violence. There were huge protests and calls to action when 17 students and teachers were victims of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018.
Many lives were forever changed that day, but the leadership and resolve of student survivors made their voices heard and gun laws were changed. U.S. Senate leaders continue to block gun safety legislation, but since Parkland happened, 32 states have signed over 110 gun safety bills into law.
In Florida, the age to purchase a gun was raised from 18 to 21, there is a three-day waiting period on a gun’s purchase, bump stocks were banned, and, with the approval of a judge, a person could be barred from owning a gun for a year if that person is found to be dangerous as a result of mental illness.
Gun violence comes in many forms, mass shootings, domestic violence, hate crimes, accidents to name a few, but suicides make up about 62% of all gun violence deaths. And every day an average of 100 people die as a result of gun violence.
Parkland and Ahamaud Arbery represent only two tragic examples of what happens when guns are in the hands of the wrong people. We know the shooter of the Parkland massacre was a former student with well-documented patterns of disciplinary issues and unnerving behavior. We do not know the motivation for the killing of Ahmaud and we have many questions I hope will be answered very soon. We pray for the family and friends for comfort and strength as they mourn the loss of one they loved and cherished.
So for all those whose lives have been cut short because of gun violence, I ask you my friends and political leaders to consider encouraging the passage of Emergency Risk Protection Orders (ERPO). These laws permit police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to themselves or others.
To me, they are laws of compassion for our friends, family and all fellow citizens. Without access to a weapon, maybe the thought that suicide is the answer would pass. Without access to the weapon, maybe the hate, rage or confusion of the shooter would not have happened.
Our young people deserve a better world than this. They shouldn’t have to be crammed into closets at school with doors locked, lights out, quiet and calm while anticipating an active shooter, but they are. They shouldn’t have to hear of a mass shooting in a school, church, movie theater, grocery store, etc., but they do.
The messages of love and justice these Frankfort students shared come from the heart, and these young people are determined, dedicated, and deserve to be heard. They have important things to say.
Judy Goddard of Frankfort is on the leadership team of Together Frankfort. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org