Slusher: Share in a real, constructive conversation about safety

In a front-page editorial on Wednesday, we on the Daily Herald editorial board vented our frustration over continued school shootings with a call for a statewide panel that would research potential solutions and produce specific recommendations before school starts again next fall. At the end of a contentious General Assembly and the beginning of a bitter election campaign, we have no naive illusions about the likelihood the governor or other state leaders will heed our call, but if we waited for the "right time" to present a good idea, we might never have the opportunity. We earnestly hope they'll give the idea some thought.

Indeed, much of our frustration comes from a sense that our whole society is just waiting for some magic solution to fall from the sky or for the problem to evaporate on its own. Neither of those things is going to happen, of course. So it's urgent - a true matter of life and death - that we continue to strive for answers. In that spirit, I'd like to invite a sincere conversation within the Daily Herald community about what realistically can and should be done to protect our kids. By "sincere conversation," I'm not talking about the usual clamor of online commenting or spite-filled letters to the editor. I'm not talking about outrage against gun-hating "leftists" or condescension about gun-toting bumpkins. I'm not thinking of moralistic hand-wringing about the good ol' days of Ward and June Cleaver or the miserable state of today's entertainment culture. Honest people know the truth about the good ol' days and, whatever one thinks about the merits of re-engineering cultural values, making that happen productively is not going to occur before September.

I'd like us to talk - talk, not yell - about real, viable, data-supported actions that can be taken now to protect all of us, especially students, against the threat of random mass lethal violence. Surely, that conversation has to involve gun control and access to weapons. Surely, it must also involve precautions, training, awareness and safety strategies. No doubt it involves ideas someone has had that have never been explored before.

Will you join in? Offer your thoughts as respectfully and constructively as you can about what our schools, our state, our nation and each of us as individuals can do to have a material impact on the safety of our children or indeed of all of us at public events. Send your letters, with a maximum of 200 words, in an email to Type "SAFETY" in the Subject field. Within the coming week or so, we'll make a special presentation on the Opinion page of the ideas you present.

Keep in mind we may not publish every letter. For this project, we intend to use only contributions that rely on verifiable, undisputable facts and whose tone aims to persuade or convince, not to demean or insult. As someone who grew up in a gun culture and who loves many people who love guns, I am convinced there is a way to discuss this scourge in a way that recognizes everyone's rights and freedoms and doesn't imply that one set of individuals is smarter, deeper, more compassionate, more honest, more freedom loving, more American or more thoughtful than another. As someone who believes that responsible conversation is a key to effective democracy, I am likewise convinced that if we talk with each other and not at each other, we have a chance to find a real solution. I hope you'll put some of your ideas into the mix.

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