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Thursday, February 22, 2018

And the Children Shall Lead Them...


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I saw this post today, this morning, on Facebook. The parent of one of the children, one of the students in Parkland, Florida posted this letter.

Lenny Kaufman
February 20 at 7:54pm ·

As many of you know, my daughter Sari is a sophomore at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland. She wrote the letter below and has sent it to many government officials. She has asked me to share her message with as many people as possibe. Please feel free to re-post and share on your own timeline.

Hello, my name is Sari Kaufman and I attend Stoneman Douglas. I am a sophomore and I am a survivor of the 2/14 attack. 

The morning of the attack seemed like a normal day. The weather was very nice and I was excited to receive carnations for Valentines Day. Sadly, this all changed at the sound of a routine fire drill. 

I remember leaving my classroom at 2:22 pm. This was the second fire drill of the day so it seemed abnormal. Once I went outside I heard five consistent noises that sounded like gunshots but my mind did not let me accept the fact that it were sounds that caused 17 lives to be lost. My memory from this day is a little vague but I remember my teacher saying this is not a drill. 

We ran behind a fence and made sure we did not fall in a canal while we were running for our lives. There was so much confusion and we did not know what was going on. The only clear thing I remember which made me feel at ease was when a police officer protected us and helped us to safety. I was able to run to a nearby restaurant and watch the unthinkable news story develop in my 5th period classroom. 

Unfortunately, some of my friends are not able to share their story today. 

My city and school will be forever changed and even some of my closest friends are forever changed due to this traumatizing event that has affected them, not just physically, but also mentally/emotionally. I have had to go to funerals and watch parents bury their 14 year old sons and daughters. 

Following the attack, I wanted to talk to the news right away, but at the same time, I first wanted to understand the gun control debate a little more in-depth. Now, after a few days and after this traumatizing event is not feeling like a dream anymore and the fact that we lost 17 people including coaches, teachers, administrators, and classmates, I want to make a change. 

In November, I researched about the NICS (the gun database background check system) and about universal gun background checks for the November Public Forum debate topic. I remember finding many flaws in our system. For example, according to “The Trace” in 2015, the NICS Improvement Amendment Act was introduced in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. The legislation gave more than a billion dollars in grants to states and territories to improve record keeping systems and reportings to NICS. This seemed like a very common sense and great way to fix a robust system. 

However, since the bill became law, Congress has given out only 11.5 percent of that money for spending. Former Congressman James Moran explains the reason behind this. He says that the NRA worked with allies in Congress to cut off funding for these grants when the committee put each year’s budget together (July 27th, 2015). 

Unfortunately, this was a very common theme and each article I read had a recurring conclusion. It is either that the proposed bill never passes Congress due to backlash from other funding parties, or in some cases, a bill passes but Congress does not put the money where it is supposed to go due to influential organizations like the NRA.

Therefore, do I think that my friends and I protesting for a change is going to change your mind? No. But maybe real facts, research, and uniting politicians together to save lives at school will lead to a change. 

I am only 15 years old but I understand that politics are extremely complicated. However, I believe that we can fix these issues in our systems so other kids do not have to go through the same trauma I have gone through. I hope that the next time that you (government leaders) make a deal or receive money which hinders your judgment, just remember kids having their blood spilled out on classroom floors.

Also, remember that your community might be next. 

Please do not wait and just be sad for a couple of days that 17 people died and please do not think American lives are disposable. Let this shooting be the last school shooting. Do not wait until it is too late, until it happens in your community, to your daughter or son, or your friends. 

Act now. 

There is so much we can accomplish in this revolution, even if it will take several small steps. For example, after Sandy Hook, Connecticut required information on mental health records available to federal and state agencies while performing background checks. According to Giffords Law Center, federal law cannot require states to make information identifying these people available to the federal or state agencies that perform background checks, and many states fail to voluntarily report the necessary records to the FBI’s NICS. So instead of just letting Connecticut be alone and do this because they were affected, let's motivate every single state to do this on a federal level. 

I want to be optimistic about these political changes but the sad fact is that in only my 15 years of existence there have been more school shootings than someone who lived from 1910 to 1980. There is a repetitive pattern that has a very similar dialogue: Another shooting, let's improve our system, let's unite and worry about the people on each side of the political aisle. 

Children's lives are more important than our political differences. 

Let’s do something about our flawed system. Following this, very little is ever accomplished. Words are very different than actions. I want to be optimistic but the truth is I am very pessimistic about new political changes. How is this generation going to have faith in our system if time and time again it fails to protect our lives? Every day in school we learn how great the United States is, yet we are one of the only countries in the world to have classmates die in the very place we learn. There could have been so much to prevent this horrible tragedy. I am just asking for a change no matter what it is. I just want our system to improve to save lives. I hope we unite across political parties to protect my friends and future generations to be safe in school.

Best,

Sari Kaufman
Age 15


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