Jan 25, 201311:29 AMEducation Matters
Parents Take Action to Spur Gun Control
The horrific shootings last December in Newtown hit us all hard. But for Ina Schonberg of Silver Spring, the news hit much closer to home.
You see, Schonberg grew up in Newtown. Even though it’s been 34 years since she has lived in that small Connecticut town, her parents and other family and friends are still there.
That close connection combined with the brutality of the murder of the youngest of school children has galvanized her to act in a way that none of the other shootings that came before—Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, to name a few—had done.
So Schonberg and fellow parents in the Montgomery Blair High School cluster have formed the Blair Cluster Committee of PTAs on School Safety and Common Sense Gun Policy.
“What’s making me engage is how personal it is,” said Schonberg, a mother of two students at Blair and another at Takoma Park Middle School. “If I as an individual don’t feel motivated at this point, what does it take? And I feel that’s a question for the rest of the country—what does it take?”
The committee, which was initiated by the Takoma Park Elementary School PTA, is aimed at organizing local PTAs to “get more engaged in this issue and we’d like to be an example of that,” said Schonberg, who co-chairs the committee with parent Edward Feigen. “We’re trying to provide some space for parents who want a dialogue on school safety brought to the fore.”
The group plans to set up small committees to pursue efforts at the local, state and national levels, she said. On the local level, the committee hopes to help inform parents of Montgomery County Public Schools’ violence prevention and emergency preparedness plans and support efforts to make improvements.
Schonberg noted that MCPS has “a set of pretty good” emergency preparedness procedures that have been developed over the years in response to such incidents as 9/11 and the 2002 sniper shootings.
So the committee is not focusing on the threat of the random attack, but the “bigger, immediate threat” posed by the proliferation of guns and other problems such as mental illness, she said.
The committee plans to work with local and county PTAs to advocate for common-sense gun policies on the state and national level. Those efforts will follow the lead of the National PTA, which is advocating specific policies to restrict access to firearms, including mandatory licenses to purchase guns, and federal bans on assault weapons and non-sporting ammunition.
“I think everybody is wondering that, certainly the people in Newtown,” says Schonberg, who visited her hometown last weekend.
In fact, Newtown residents are hoping that the community can be “known as a turning point instead of a place of tragedy,” she said. “That would be a good thing, and if that could be accomplished, we’d all be in a better place.”