Courtney Kidd LCSW

Courtney Kidd LCSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Harm Reduction as Gun Reform: A social work perspective

I never had active shooter drills in schools. We had one nuclear bomb once that seemed silly, as hallways and desks were known even then for being a poor substitute to any actual threat. Now children go through so many that they are more trained to deal with an active shooter environment than anyone save emergency personnel and military members. They are taught that should they be shot and not die immediately, they must try to remain silent through the pain to try to minimize the risk of the shooter returning to them or to others hiding. They are taught not to worry if they should die before telling their loved ones’ goodbye because they know. Try to keep that in your head. A child must actively think “if I get shot, try not to cry or they might come back to shoot my friends.” I don’t have children, I do have a nephew that I love more than I can take, and family and friends who I would do anything for. And I can’t sit idly by and do nothing in the face of the real danger here. Because for my nephew to soon enter school and be in danger of growing up with this as his norm is far too much for a reasonable person to accept.

As a social worker we are taught to practice harm reduction. Similar to “first do no harm,” harm reduction is a belief that though we cannot remove all traces of potential threat, we can do so as much as humanely possible. It is the belief that even minimizing a larger problem is better than doing nothing, even if it never drops to zero. We must begin harm reduction as a society.

As an adjunct, each semester I teach I sign a paper accepting the terms and conditions of my office. It mostly has to do with my salary, and my status among the faculty such as my ineligibility for tenure. What it doesn’t include, but what I would gladly sign, is the responsibility I hold as a teacher includes the fact embedded deep within my core, that I would gladly stand between my student and any form of harm that is imagined. Those who believe that all power dynamics are inherently bad does not see that it is at times unavoidable, but this particular power narrative means that my students upon entering my classroom hand over power to me to keep them safe. And I take that as seriously as any pledge I could make, far greater than a piece of paper that has a number attached to it. To enter my classroom is not only entering with the expectation of learning, but to enter a zone where I will do anything within my power to keep you safe. I say this knowing full well the potential risks that might be. What I will not sign onto, is that we are helpless to change our society to reduce these threats.

The arguments that our founding fathers would side with the need for loosely held firearms over the right to a person’s life is lunacy. For those who studied history you know that the 2nd amendment, while a right, was a form of concession to ensure the united portion of the united states. Something that could not be completed without the southern states who were terrified of an armed uprising of their “property,” i.e. slaves. They feared a tyrannical government only to a certain extent, as their fears were for a standing army, something that many founding fathers, including Washington and Hamilton firmly disagreed with seeing how unfit and poorly trained militia members were. Had they known that this concession would one day be the ongoing cause of the death of our children, I’m confident we would have seen drastically different wording. As John Adams so firmly stated:

“The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation out to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”

Everything our founders did was to protect the future generations. Adams knew that his generation must play their roles in war to create society that allowed their children to then study more expansive knowledge than just Warcraft, so that their children could then study non-violent pursuits. He wanted his children’s children to never have to know a society of violence, and while he certainly knew that no one would always be safe from the potential threat of war, his statements regarding such show that their ideal was to protect the future. Our children. Those same children we now let to slaughter to protect the rights of mainly middle-aged males, and even moreso the rights of an organization who cares less about life than they do about money, who want no questions asked when they decide on a new toy that can shoot bullets out faster than a single blink of an eye. Should we continue in this fashion we desecrate everything that those who came before us fought for, as we never fight just for ourselves, but for our future. Had our founders taken that same view, this country never would have seen it’s first decade survive. Should we take it now, we won’t see it survive much longer.

We so readily shun the voices of these children as unworthy of attention due to age. It’s an easy way to discredit what they say, after all, they’re far too young to be allowed a voice. Draft into war? Not too young in a few months. Consent to sex in Alabama? Not to young. But speak out against the death of their peers from senseless violence that can at least be minimized?! Be seen and not heard. Act like you have been shot and not yet died and call no attention to yourself. Forget that our founders were mostly 17-20 when they entered the Revolution. Forget that they have been the ones who have been experiencing this, have lived their lives with gun violence as a synonym for fire drill. Fires can be accidental, guns state purpose. The trouble for those who believe this is we will not forget. And we don’t need guns for our fight, so the threats that so often come in seem petty.

Let this be the last generation who practice school shooting drills. Let it fade into memory along with nuclear bomb drills under desks. Fade to air raid drills. Fade to a time when things could not be helped, because they can be. It is time to stop the bleeding. We must enact change. First, we must do no harm.


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