Last spring, Mom and Buried found an unopened package of rubber door stoppers on the street.
In my neighborhood, people put stuff they don’t want on their front curb, and it’s understood that it’s all up for grabs until the garbage man comes. Sometimes it’s old books and DVDs, sometimes it’s random bits of clothing, sometimes it’s a gently-used AC unit or a TV or a bookshelf.
Door stoppers are not something I would have even looked twice at, and needing them had never really occurred to Mom and Buried either. But she grabbed the package anyway.
Because the door stoppers aren’t for us. They’re for our brand-new third grader.
She picked them up a few days after the events in Parkland, in which a gunman brought an AR-15 to a high school and opened fire, murdering 17 students and teachers. She picked them up because she’d read that parents across the country were putting them in their kids’ backpacks, just in case.
Someone, somewhere, came up with the idea that rubber door stoppers might offer a modicum of protection for children during a school shooting.
They thought that if one of those kids has a door stopper in his or her bag, s/he can hide in a closet (as my readers – and my wife! – informed me, most doors INTO the classrooms open outward and thus would not benefit from the door stopper) and jam it under the door to prevent an intruding gunman from finding them – or at least slow him down until the president gets there and rushes in! – and potentially save themselves and their classmates.
Mom and Buried grabbed the rubber door stoppers with the intent of putting them in our son’s backpack so that he would be able to shut the door and keep a shooter out. So that he might have some way to defend himself and his fellow second graders should the once-unthinkable-and-somehow-increasingly-plausible happen at his school.
She picked them up right after Parkland, which happened months ago. But she hasn’t given them to him yet.
Giving door stoppers to a 7-year-old requires telling that 7-year-old why he needs them, what they’re for, and when to use them. It requires having a heartbreaking conversation with a little boy – a little boy who had nightmares after our empty car, blocks away, was broken into while he was sleeping – about school shootings, and guns, and killers, and death.
It would force her to vocalize fears she’d rather deny, fears we’d rather he remain ignorant of, at least for a few more years. But with schools all across the country conducting shooter drills and teaching children to duck and cover and hide, that ship has already sailed.
Every morning we pack our 7-year-old’s backpack with his lunch, his books, his homework, his toy for show-and-tell, etc. Every morning the door stoppers remain in our bedroom. For now. Mom and Buried doesn’t want to give my son the door stoppers, but she’s terrified about what will happen if she doesn’t – and the day comes when he actually needs them.
I don’t know where you stand on gun control or gun reform or the second amendment or the NRA or mental health education or Trump or even on the Yankees versus the Red Sox. (I’m sure some of you will angrily let me know in the comments, as you have before, and that’s fine.)
But I know that the answer doesn’t involve *more* guns, or guns in the hands of teachers , or guns that can fire hundreds of rounds in the time it takes my kid to tie his shoes (that may be a bad comparison – it takes him FOREVER – but you know what I mean).
We’ve tried it the NRA’s way for long enough. We’ve tried continually loosening the gun laws, eliminating background checks, allowing for more concealed carry, giving good guys guns, etc. We’ve tried all of that and none of it has worked.
One thing we haven’t tried? Reducing the amount of and access to guns. Seems like it might be time to give that a whirl.
It’s bound to be more effective than rubber door stoppers.
A slightly modified version of this post originally ran on my Facebook page.