Our hearts are broken following the recent tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen students and two teachers were shot and killed and seventeen others were hurt at the school after the gunman severely wounded his own grandmother, also a teacher’s aide at Robb Elementary. It is a nightmare from which so many in that community will never fully awaken.
In the Family & Children Services Division of Boulder County Housing and Human Services, we are child welfare caseworkers, family support specialists, and adult protection workers. Given that we work around the clock to help keep children and adults safe and support their families, the Uvalde tragedy is like a fever dream to us as well. Our jobs involve spending a lot of time in schools – working directly with students, teachers, and parents – and this has shaken us to our core. When kids and families are harmed, it wounds the entire community, including the people who help them: the teachers, child care workers, counselors, and other school staff, as well as their families, friends, and every single parent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, guardian, advocate, or anyone else who knows and cares about a child. We know the pain in Uvalde is intense, broad, and deep, as it has been in so many other communities for far too long.
This devastation is caused by a lethal combination of a lack of action, suffering and fear, and -often- hate-fueled rhetoric. We believe we are better than this.
Everyone deserves to live in a community that helps ensure equal access to all the things we need to be able to live well and be healthy, and safety is right at the top of that list. As beings, we can and must evolve. In order to stop gun violence, we need more courageous action by lawmakers and policymakers backed by the community in partnership with those who have committed their lives to this work. We can no longer wait for others or some other time; we are what we need to make this happen.
Boulder County Commissioners have declared June as Gun Violence Awareness Month in our community, and during this month they will be considering passage of local gun violence prevention ordinances to protect the safety of children and adults in our communities. We applaud this leadership. It is time we do all we can, including through policy, to keep people safe from violence that is made easier by a potentially deadly tool for which there is little oversight or regulation.
While we as child and adult protection workers have committed our lives to this effort to keep children and adults safe, it should not stop with us. Today we ask others to join in what must be a community-wide response. There is much each of us can do to support our neighbors, to ensure they know we are all in this together with them. We can offer help, get outside our comfort zone to show them they are not alone, and pay attention to how they are doing. There are many resources for families or individuals who are struggling — 211Colorado.org is a good place to start for information. If you want to learn more about gun violence in the U.S. and how you can get involved in the effort to make it rare and abnormal, visit the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence at EFSGV.org.
We must collectively advocate for change – whatever it takes to keep violence from harming our children, the vulnerable adults among us, and people of color in our community. We must show our community, our state, and our country what it looks like to reach a limit, because to those of us who do this work it is clear we are there. This cannot happen again, and it’s up to all of us to ensure it doesn’t. All our leaders must act, not only to make it much harder to inflict this kind of damage to our community, but also to clearly show everyone we will simply not tolerate gun violence, and that in fact we are strong and sure in our vision and partnership for a safe, equitable, and thriving community.