Anti-gun activists demand schools "educate" parents on red flag laws

Ricardo Arduengo

Last year, a local group of anti-gun activists in Massachusetts called Stop Gun Stores in Newton managed to block a gun store from opening up in their town after a lease had been signed and a permit had been granted after whipping some residents into a frenzy over the prospect of kids walking by a gun shop on their way to school. The marijuana dispensary that’s already operating next to where the gun shop was set to open for business wasn’t a concern at all for the activists, mind you, but dozens of Newton residents crammed into their town council chambers to demand the city do something to protect their children from the sight of a firearms retailer and the council ultimately rescinded its approval; passing a new zoning ordinance restricting gun stores to just a few small parcels of land, all of which are (surprise!) currently occupied.

After such a rousing success, Stop Gun Stores in Newton wasn’t about to fold up their tent and go home. Instead, the group rebranded itself the Newton Gun Violence Prevention Collaborative and has been a presence in local politics ever since, though perhaps not always a welcome one in the liberal Boston suburb. Last year the group was roundly criticized by many in the local community over complaints that they didn’t fully disclose that their endorsed candidate for school board was also one of the co-founders of the organization, and both his wife and campaign manager were still involved in the group. I can’t tell you how big of an issue it was for voters, but I do know that the non-endorsed candidate is the one who’s currently serving on the board.

Though the anti-gun activists weren’t successful in placing one of their own on the board, they’re still trying to get the schools involved in their gun control campaigns. As the Boston Globe reports, the group is lobbying to get the public school system to start “educating” parents on the use of the state’s “red flag” law.

Laura Towvin and Heather Tausig are members of the Newton Gun Violence Prevention Collaborative, a local anti-gun violence organization that wrote a letter to the School Committee calling for the city’s public schools to start teaching parents about how to properly store any firearms in their homes.
The group is also asking the School Committee to educate parents on the state’s Extreme Risk Protective Order, also known as Red Flag Law, which can require some individuals to surrender their firearms. They argue this would do much to keep guns out of the hands of vulnerable children.
“Missing from NPS’s plan is one simple evidence-based strategy: educating parents about existing laws that can keep guns out of the hands of children,” Towvin told the committee during its Sept. 7 meeting.
The district has “social and emotional initiatives” in place for students, according to its website, as well as a “SchoolMessenger communication system” to alert families via phone or email in case of an emergency.
A resolution from the School Committee would be a preventative measure, and would potentially stop at-risk children from harming themselves or others with access to a firearm, they said.
Tausig and Towvin said they hope their ideas can generate more traction among other parents, and especially among the School Committee.
“A lot of states have these extreme risk protection order laws or red flag laws, but if people don’t know about them, then they really don’t do any good,” Towvin said in an interview.

I’m not going to re-litigate all of the issues with Extreme Risk Protection Orders here, but regardless of what you think about them why is it the role of the public school system to lecture parents about anything to do with firearms? Do they teach parents how to “properly store” their alcohol or the pot they buy at the dispensary next to where the gun store was supposed to open? Do they instruct parents how to use Narcan in case their kid ODs? There were nine overdose deaths in Newton last year, after all, and as far as I can tell not a single homicide. There was one murder this year, but the death was from blunt force trauma, and there’s no evidence a gun was used.

Tausig, Towvin, and the other anti-gun activists in Newton may want to keep guns out of kids’ hands, but they also want to keep guns out of adults’ hands too, and the school board should have nothing to do with any sort of effort to promote gun control. Would these activists be okay with the school also sending out information about how to apply for your concealed carry license, or a list of local ranges where gun owners can receive training? That would promote the safe and responsible gun ownership that the activists claim to support, right? But we know that if the school board decided to include that information alongside their “red flag” propaganda and gun storage tips these folks would be even more torqued than when they found out a gun store was opening up downtown.

That’s why I hope that some of the gun owners in Newton (and yes, there are a few) take their objections and this suggestion to the next school board meeting. You think the school system needs to educate parents on “gun safety”? Well I don’t, but if you’re going to do it anyway then it needs to be real gun safety, not the “don’t-own-a-gun” kind of “gun safety” preached by gun control advocates. I’m pretty sure I know how that discussion with the board is going to go, but it would be nice to see their constant self-promoting as “gun safety champions” called out for the empty branding that it is. And who knows, maybe enough board members decide this is not a fight they want to pick and they get back to their job of ensuring the kids in Newton graduate with, among other things, a full appreciation and understanding of their rights as American citizens.