A special blog post by Courtney Neron, candidate for Oregon House District 26.
April 1999 – I’m a student at the University of Oregon; it’s the days immediately following the Columbine shooting. I remember the overwhelming urge to leave the dining hall at the U of O as a guy walked through wearing a trench coat. What did he have hidden in there? I wanted nothing more than to drive north to pull my little sister out of her high school class and hold her. High school was supposed to be a safe place. It had been for me, but I graduated in 1997, when the most dangerous thing was an awful prank with olive oil on the cafeteria floor… First Springfield, then Columbine, and now school was no longer the protected zone it had been. This was our new reality.
December 2012. I remember how I crumpled to the ground when I heard about the massacre at Sandy Hook and how I drove to my daughter’s school where she had just started kindergarten. I needed to be near her without letting her know how our world had changed so I sat in the office until school got out for the day, so thankful to see her smile and grieving with the parents who I knew would never see their children smile again. My little girl had just begun her public school education and this phase of gun violence would plague her reality.
Fall 2015. I remember the first time I conducted a lockdown drill with my students. I had returned to the classroom after being a full-time mom. As the principal came on the over intercom and announced “Lockdown,” I had an adrenaline rush, my hand shaking as I realized I didn’t know which way to turn the key to lock versus unlock my door. I felt frustration and disbelief that we needed to be practicing for this. Instructions were to lock the door even if a student was on the other side, because I would be keeping those already in my classroom safe. After the drill, the class noticed I was a bit shaken and seemed surprised. None of my students know life without lockdown drills. This is their reality.
Spring 2016. Later in the same school year, we lost a student to suicide by gun. He had a bad day and had access to a firearm. He was well-liked. Everyone grieved. I worried whenever my students were absent and as they left my Spanish lessons, I hoped with all my heart that they would come back to school the next day. A surprising number of students subsequently came forward about their own battles with suicidal thoughts and our school reeled with the new awareness of the number of people in crisis. This is our hidden collective reality.
February 2018. I remember the day after the Parkland shooting, when I returned to my classroom and cleared out a few closets of posters and boxes that I didn’t need, for the purpose of creating hiding places just in case a lockdown drill wasn’t a drill. My husband who doesn’t worry about much even offered to buy me a glass breaker so that we could get out the 2nd story window if we needed. I never imagined that wanting to teach would mean that this would be my reality.
These are moments that gutted me and left me more resolute than ever to take action against gun violence. I do not want to be neutral in this fight to make our schools and communities safe. I want to be loud and proactive. I am running to improve education and our communities, yes; but a huge part of that improvement needs to come in the form of common sense gun safety legislation. As a legislator, I will fight without wavering on my commitment to reducing gun violence. You can trust me to wholeheartedly support:
- Closing the Charleston loophole
- Creating safe storage laws
- Increasing the minimum age of purchase
- Banning bump stocks
- Limiting high capacity magazines
- Banning military style assault weapons
- And increasing access to mental health care both in our public schools and in a healthcare for all system.
As a mother and a high school teacher, I feel deep heartache knowing that kids are dying at school. As a community member, I also want to feel safe at concerts, movie theaters and crowded events. The United States is unique in the extent of our gun violence epidemic. We must hold our elected officials to the highest standard to immediately and effectively respond with lifesaving legislation. We must elect people who are committed to improving the current reality and who will act fast to move forward on gun safety measures. I will be a part of that movement.