There was a somber feeling in the auditorium at Rafael Hernandez Elementary as Principal Patricia Goyce read names of the seventeen killed in a Parkland, Florida high school last week. Students held photographs of each victim as their names were called, lighting a candle in honor of them.
“The eighteenth candle that we have there, and the empty picture frame is for all of those in Newark who have lost their lives to a senseless crime through shooting. Our babies, our students, their students, their family members.”
Principal Goyce was one of several dozen people in the room calling for more action from the federal government to prevent school shootings. She heard and read President Trump’s proposal to train and arm qualified teachers with concealed weapons.
“Absolutely not,” Goyce said. “That’s basically just telling them to just do it anyway. I always tell my students that two wrongs don’t make a right. It’s kind of like you’re giving into what they are doing and that’s not the solution.”
Lizzette from Newark’s north ward is a single parent of three kids in different Newark Public Schools. She agrees with Principal Goyce, and says guns don’t belong in classrooms, but, she has a slightly different take.
“Giving them to teachers does not promise us that our kids are going to be safe. Anything can happen. A teacher could have a bad day and take it out on a student. Our teachers are there to protect our students and putting guns in their hands is not going to make them safer.”
New Jersey does have some of the nation’s tightest gun laws, says State Senator Teresa Ruiz.
“But that doesn’t prevent guns from coming into the state or incidents happening. We can access guns at a Walmart or a Kmart in another state. The conversation has to be taken to the White House. It has to be taken to the floor in Congress. Action needs to happen now.”
Advocates and students alike are protesting in Washington, Many at the doorsteps of their local congressman’s office, and in this case, at a vigil in Newark. Some state officials have already begun to take action into their own hands. The governors of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are forming a regional 'States for Gun Safety' coalition. They say there’s no time to wait for the federal government to pass common sense gun safety legislation.