Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: We Can Make the City of Falls Church Safer

By Shaun Dakin

Another mass shooting in America. Another week goes by, and we ask, again, “what can we do to stop this mass murder of children by children?”
What we can’t do right now is pass federal or state laws because of the power of the gun lobby. We can’t even pass local laws here in Falls Church because of the power of the gun lobby and the Dillon rule which limits local governments to enact ordinances only in areas where the General Assembly has granted explicit authority.

So, what can we do as a community?

We can, as a community, pledge to keep our children safe by securing all guns in our homes and vehicles. We can stop the next school shooting from happening by guaranteeing that it doesn’t start in our homes.

The Little City is a fantastic place. We rightly cherish our school system; it is the reason many of us moved here. We give our precious children to our schools, and we expect them to be safe. We entrust enormous responsibility to our children’s teachers, school leaders, staff, and school resource officers. We hope they will do everything they can to save our children.

This responsibility, however, cannot be only on the shoulders of our schools.

We must, as a community, work together to ensure that our schools are safe. Keeping our children safe in school means that we all must take responsibility in our homes. Our homes must not be the place where the next school shooter gets their guns because they are angry. Kids are impulsive and may make poor decisions out of anger, sadness, and even fear that can lead to tragic consequences.

Let’s ensure that this is not our kid.

According to the Asking Saves Kids (ASK) program, one out of three homes with children have guns that are unlocked. Each day, nine children and teens are shot in gun accidents, and 80 percent of unintentional firearm deaths occur in the home.

The Sandy Hook shooter had an arsenal of guns in his home, guns that his mother had purchased for him.

According to a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the lead cause of death for children age 10 to 17 is suicide and “adolescent suicide is strongly associated with firearm availability.” Also, the AAP recently announced new recommendations that call for families with a depressed teen to develop a safety plan to restrict the young person’s access to lethal means of harm which includes firearm access.

I have been working on gun violence prevention as a full-time volunteer since 26 innocent lives were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14, 2012. My son was in the 3rd grade, almost the same age as the kids who died.

I used to drop my son off in front of Thomas Jefferson Elementary school before the doors opened and waved goodbye, leaving him alone in front of the school to chat with his friends. The day after the Sandy Hook shooting, I began parking my car and walked him to the doors of the school, and waited with him until he went into the school in the rain, snow, sun and cold.

I was not going to let a school shooter murder him without me being there for him. I was going to do whatever it takes to protect my little boy. I thought once he was inside the walls of the school, everything would be okay. Now I hope and pray that once he is inside the school that he will remain safe and that at days end, I will hear all about his day.

Since Sandy Hook, I have worked every day to ensure that we have a safer community and a safer country.

We can make Falls Church City safer. I ask that everyone in the community with children in the school system sign the Falls Church City Parent Safety Contract and I encourage the Falls Church City School Board to incorporate the Parent Safety Contract in the yearly student registration process (aka infosnap).

Please visit the website FallsChurchParentSafetyContract.com to sign the contract and then contact the School Board and ask that they include the Parent Safety Contract as part of their Code of Conduct for every parent and every child in our Little City.

Falls Church City Public Schools Parent Safety Contract:

We pledge:

In acknowledgment of our shared community responsibility to keep every child in this school district from endangering themselves or other children in the school district, we promise to keep any guns in our home or vehicles under lock and key.

Furthermore, we acknowledge the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that guns stored in homes where children live or visit are safest when stored unloaded with ammunition and gun locked and stored separately. Safe storage of firearms is no different than safe storage of other potentially dangerous household items, such as prescription opioids.

Thanks to the One Day, One Voice project for inspiration.