He Did Great In the Intruder Drill: The Story of the Moment Gun Reform Became My Number One Issue

We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear. ~Nelson Mandela


A few weeks ago I picked up my six-year-old son from kindergarten.

It was the last day before spring break, and there was that excited “day before vacation” buzz in the air. Colorful flower-filled “Spring Break!” banners hung right next to the white and blue winter crafts still dangling in the hallways.

Kids were bouncing all over the place – hopped up on the mere expectation of fun – sortof like a sugar rush without the candy.

And honestly, his school is usually a confusing mess at the end of the day – even without an impending school break.

Hundreds of exasperated parents line the halls of the preschool and kindergarten classrooms to walk their littles out – having half conversations while struggling with all the parenting that has to happen in the span of 37 seconds. There are teachers to acknowledge, other parents to say hello to, and you have your child scrambling for your attention the whole time.

On my way to my son’s classroom I can hear snippets of other parents’ lives … where is your lunchbox? … what birthday party? at who’s house? why am I just hearing about this now?!? … where is your coat? seriously? where is your coat?

My son usually sits in the hall – on the ground, right in front of his classroom door – watching and waiting for me to turn the corner.

(It’s a bright spot in my day, as you can imagine.)

And then I have the same, short, distracted conversation with the teachers as we gather up his lunchbox (God forbid we forget the dinosaur lunchbox…) and coat, and bag, and then off we go to what other adventures await us.

But that day was a little … different.

As I was stuffing his belongings into a bag already crammed with crafts and papers and god-knows-what, I half heard half felt it:

“He did really well during the intruder drill today.”

I nearly dropped his backpack.

“I’m sorry?” I coughed.

“We had an intruder drill,” Mr. D, one of my son’s teachers, said. He spoke more slowly this time, nodding like he knew it was a shock for me to hear. “And he did really well. I just wanted you to know.”

He shrugged and looked down.

I fumbled for words. Because what do you say?

“Oh, good.” And then “I’m sorry.”

It was all I could come up with.

He shrugged again.

And then my son proceeded to act out what babies do in an intruder drill.

He acted it out because he knew I would be proud that he had been so good and so quiet and had followed directions. And so, with a big smile, he crouched down right there, in the hallway, put his head down – and practiced being quiet like his life depended on it.

And then he looked up at me with a child’s expectant, hopeful eyes – those eyes that ask – did I do good, mom? Did I do it right?

And with tears in my eyes and a frog in my throat, I praised him. I told him how proud I was, and how proud his teachers were, and how proud he should be of himself for being so good and so quiet and for following directions.

And then I bit my lip to keep myself from crying in front of a hallway full of babies while his teachers averted their eyes.

And nodded.

It’s Jarring To Realize Your Child Rehearses His Murder

I imagine I’m not the only parent who’s had trouble accepting what happens in an “intruder drill”.

I’m not the only parent who is blown back when she internalizes the reality that her child regularly rehearses the moments before his death in his kindergarten classroom.

See, it’s one thing to think about “intruder drills” as a concept. It’s completely different to have your six-year-old son act it out.

Our gun violence epidemic has always been a top issue for me. But it wasn’t until I saw my baby boy, with paint on his pants leg and chocolate on his cheek, cheerfully acting out what he would do in the moments before being shot with an assault rifle – because he knew I would be so proud – that the visceral reality of it really hit home.

We bristle when our kids come home from school with fantastical stories of shooting this or killing that – demanding to know what other child has filled our kid’s head with such violence and gore.

But we force them to imagine – and act out – what they would do if the boogeyman came to their classroom to kill them.

We force them to pretend they are about to die.

We force them to think it through – where would they hide? What if they had to sneeze? What if they fell on their way to the storage closet and scraped their knee and cried?

And then we sanitize it for ourselves by calling it an “intruder drill,” because the reality of what we’re asking their little brains to imagine – to accept – to prepare for – is too horrifying.

And then we make dinner.

So what are we – what are you – going to do about it?

So it’s not all that surprising to me that an organization started by mothers would be the driving force advocating for gun reform.

It is surprising to me that some legislators don’t fully recognize the strength of our convictions, the seriousness of the issue, and the irrationality of their gun-fanatic position.

Because – just to be clear – they are choosing someone’s hobby of shooting a war-time assault rifle over my son’s freedom to experience kindergarten in safety.

They are choosing someone’s delight in hearing a big “kaboom!” and feeling the kickback of an AR-15 over the mental health and stability of entire generation of children, and parents.

My god, we deserve more.

So less than two weeks ago, I went to our state capitol and read the names and comments of 1400 people who signed a petition that I organized, advocating against a bill that would force public colleges and universities (and private K-12s) to allow concealed carry.

Michele Hornish protesting guns everywhere agenda
Here I am reading the names and comments from 1400 people who signed a petition against Missouri’s HB575, which would allow guns in public universities and private K-12 schools.

Why? Because to paraphrase Senator Elizabeth Warren, our legislators have a hard time hearing us when their ears are so stuffed with cash. So I wanted to make sure the people’s voices were heard. Literally.

Gun reform must be top of mind for all political candidates this cycle, and for every cycle to come. So join your state and local Moms Demand Action group. If there isn’t one nearby, start one. Support candidates that believe in common sense gun reform. (If you’re in Missouri, you can do that by joining It Starts Today’s gun reform project here: www.itstarts.today/missouri_gun_reform). Bring up gun safety and common sense gun reform in town halls, in conversations, in meet-and-greets. Think of new and creative ways to advocate for change – to include new people, and to educate your friends, and family, and neighbors.

There’s a lot to fight for these days. There’s a lot to fight against. It feels like everything is on fire, because a lot of it is.

But every week we are reminded of the urgency of this particular issue. Because every day we’re confronted with another mass shooting.

Every day another kindergartener is told to go in the closet and be really really quiet, while her teacher tries not to imagine how he’d handle a mass murderer breaking through the door.

Every day a high schooler writes a “just in case” letter like a marine on the front lines.

Enough.

Let’s get to work.


Actions for the week of April 30

Tuesday: Postcards to Voters in Nebraska!

Tony the Democrat sent out an all-hands-on-deck e-mail asking anyone who has volunteered previously to take 5 or 10 addresses for a specific race for City Council in Lincoln, Nebraska. The races that occur in off-times (like now) don’t get as much attention – and it’s harder to finish the postcard lists in time. They could use a hand!

Postcards need to be sent by April 30 (which is today!). Sign up by sending the facebook message HELLO to Abby the address bot www.facebook.com/AbbyTheAddressBot or texting Abby the address bot: text HELLO to (484) 275-2229

Note: Facebook messages cost Postcards to Voters nothing; texts cost them a few cents each.  So, if you’re on facebook please send address requests via facebook.

Learn more at www.postcardstovoters.org.

Wednesday: Tell the Senate to Pass the Violence Against Women Act

Earlier this month the House passed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. It would seem that the Senate would take that up quickly, right?

Nope. Of course not.

Why?

Because the Senate GOP doesn’t like that the House made women safer with this new version of the VAWA. The version the House passed includes an amendment that closes the “boyfriend loophole;” that loophole “previously allowed partners who have been convicted of abuse to purchase a firearm.” And so, of course, the GOP Senators want to kill at least those provisions that kept guns away from people who have been convicted of abuse.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

It’s up to us to contact our Senators to tell them that we want that boyfriend loophole closed – and that we’re expecting them to pass the House version without removing that common-sense gun reform.

Script: Hi, my name is _____ and I’m a constituent at _____. I’m calling to encourage the Senator to support the Violence Against Women Act as it was passed in the House – because it closes the boyfriend loophole that allows convicted abusers to purchase a firearm. We need more common sense gun laws like that to keep us safe. What is the Senator’s position on the VAWA as passed by the House?

Thursday: Join the Moms Demand Voter Outreach Team!

So this is pretty cool…

Now you can sign up to be part of the Moms Demand Action Voter Outreach Team and contact voters in key states. From the Everytown website:

This team focuses on our highest priority battles with the NRA at the federal level.
  • Call residents of key states, explain the need to oppose dangerous bills and connect them directly to their senator’s office.

  • Raise the voices of constituents and help ensure dangerous bills the NRA is pushing are stopped in their tracks.

This is the perfect project for anyone who has been jonesing to make some calls to voters! Go HERE to get started.

Friday: Join the SuperMajority

Yesterday, Cecile Richards, Alicia Garza, and Ai-Gen Poo (holy female star power!) unveiled their new program SuperMajority, which they’ve promised will be: a place to promote an agenda that puts women and women’s issues first; an online home for news, tips, and how-tos; online and in-person training; and a community of women.

So far, I’m intrigued. (In particular, I love that they ask new members “What’s your superpower?” Hey! That’s my line!).

I think there’s a ton of potential here. With the leadership they have on board, I have no doubt they’ve got some grand ideas.

Check it out at www.supermajority.com


WHEW! GO, TEAM!

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THANK YOU FOR READING. THANK YOU FOR WRITING. I READ AND RESPOND TO EVERY E-MAIL. (REALLY! I REALLY DO!) WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER. DON’T YOU FORGET IT.

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