Secure storage is important for gun violence prevention and school safety. Here’s how I’ve advocated for it in my community.
Madeleine Ahmadi (she/her) 12.14.2022
Living in Vermont—a very rural state with a large hunting culture—means that guns are everywhere, and they are not always stored safely. In Vermont, 88% of gun deaths are by suicide, and we know the devastating impact this has on the community. The prevalence of guns, combined with the mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic, are leading to tragic shootings across the country and specifically in Vermont.
Secure storage—meaning storing guns unloaded, locked, and separate from ammunition—is the answer. Taking a look at CityGRIP, Everytown for Gun Safety’s resource on data-informed gun violence reduction strategies, I realized it is the number one solution that comes up to combat gun violence in Essex Junction, Vermont. The solution must fit the state—Vermont’s solution is secure storage.
Secure storage is also important for school safety. I started a Students Demand Action group at my school, Essex High School, in 2019 after I felt myself become more and more desensitized to mass shootings. At first, I thought that school safety meant practicing our monthly drills and hiding in corners when we heard the words “locks, lights, out of sight.” Now, I realize that those words fostered trauma and more issues within us. School safety means that districts are taking initiative to provide and aid parents with concrete solutions to gun violence, especially since the Secret Service has found that three in four school shooters got their firearm from home or the home of a close relative. Secure storage letters must be sent home to inform parents about the dangers of an unlocked weapon. School safety must be a holistic approach that both protects students from simulating traumatic experiences and enforces bold expectations within the greater community.
Alongside members of Essex High School Students Demand Action, I have been a prominent advocate for secure storage in our community. We have advocated through our superintendent, school boards, students, and with legislators across the state. Some parents and school board members can get caught up in the logistics, but we kept the focus on safety—emphasizing that secure storage can be a life-saving measure. It is not the role of any one person to make our schools safer, but rather a community effort that must be taken seriously.
We used flipped recruitment, where we encouraged students to help us send out information about secure storage before asking them to join or take on a larger role in Students Demand Action. We wrote a secure storage letter, which would be sent out to families, and then presented a slideshow to our superintendent. She was supportive of our efforts and agreed to send home secure storage letters. We then franchised the process and provided other districts with materials to help them get secure storage resolutions passed in their communities.
The outcome of our advocacy was beyond my expectations. Parents of gun violence survivors reached out to let us know that their students felt safer attending school after reading our letter. We fostered a dialogue with the community about securely storing firearms. It was more impactful than I ever could have imagined.
To any students who are looking to advocate for secure storage and other gun safety measures, I want to emphasize the importance of networking. You need to first build up your contact list and email everyone you know. Having a large team to get started on this work is critical. You need everyone to buy into your mission and then hit the ground running. Even if you can’t send secure storage letters home the first time you try, you still begin a conversation—and that is so important.
As a student school board member, I would also encourage students to not only be involved with their school board, but to work to be on their school board. Having a voice at the table can be extremely powerful in conversations about school safety. I have been able to engage more deeply in modifying the school resource officer (SRO) position in our district by serving on the school board. Looking beyond the passage of secure storage resolutions at schools, I would like to see legislation that requires secure firearm storage. That’s the next step for my advocacy.