Mae Toppino says that like most other high school students, she’s concerned about safety in schools. But she doesn’t want to just feel safe. As she recently told a Florida legislative committee, she wants herself and other students to be safe.
After Toppino gave her testimony, the D.C. Project’s Diana Mueller reached out to share it with me, and I was able to chat with Toppino on Monday evening for today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co to talk about her first-time testimony, as well as why she’s decided to start using her voice to protect both innocent lives and the fundamental right to keep and bear arms.
Toppino is no stranger to firearms. Her dad Philip is a certified firearms instructor who runs W.O.F.T. (Where Our Families Train) just outside of Minneola, Florida, and Mae says she was raised to appreciate both the right to keep and bear arms as well as the responsibility that comes with it. But the teen says that what really prompted her to address legislators was the debate over school safety.
“It became very clear to me, as I was sitting in school going through all these lockdown drills and stuff that was going on, that our idea of ‘safety’ was incredibly fragile. At any moment they can come on the intercom and say ‘this is happening, we need to go on a minor lockdown’. So that kind of non-security really bothered me, and it made me very aware that our idea of safety is whether or not we feel safe. And we can kind of control that, but what we should be controlling is whether or not we’re actually safe.”
Toppino says she wants to make sure that there’s no reason for students to feel unsafe in schools, but she doesn’t believe that banning guns or restricting the ability of responsible gun owners to bear arms in self-defense and the defense of others is the way to go about it.
“If someone wants to hurt themselves or someone else, they’re going to find a way to do it,” Toppino says, adding “there are more ways than one to do something bad.” Focusing on the inanimate object rather than the individual that poses a threat doesn’t make a lot of sense to the teen, who says she wants to see lawmakers think about how poorly these anti-gun policies translate to the real world.
Toppino believes a much better strategy would include added mental health resources for students, as well as increasing school security measures like providing armed school resource officers who could respond to all incidents of violence. As Toppino rightfully points out, many kids aren’t just stressed about the unlikely possibility of a school shooting, but the more frequent fights, drug use, and threats made by students against their classmates. When we talk about “school safety”, particularly when gun control is involved, we’re almost always focused on those horrific but rare events like the murders at Robb Elementary, but Toppino reminded me that those incidents aren’t the only things making some kids feel unsafe at school these days.
I really appreciate Mae Toppino taking some time to join me on Cam & Co, and I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation in the future. Toppino says she’s not done speaking out in public either, and I’m glad she’s willing to use her voice and share her own perspective; one not often covered by the anti-gun media.