Nate Holley is being hailed a hero for his bravery during a school shooting. Is this really what we've come to, America?

Nate Holley is being hailed a hero for his bravery during a school shooting. Is this really what we've come to, America?

Nate Holley walked out of his suburban Colorado school on May 7, 2019, physically unharmed. Two students had opened fire on their STEM School classmates that day, killing one and wounding seven others. It was the 35th U.S. school shooting this school year.

Nate is 12 years old and in the sixth grade. Nate told CNN that when he heard the gunshots he froze. He said a kid in his class cracked a joke before his teacher told them to shut up and hide behind her desk.


Nate said half the kids in his class burst into tears. As the shooters got closer, they were ushered into a closet.

Nate was scared. He put his hand a metal baseball bat in the closet.

Nate said, "I was going to go down fighting, if I was going to go down."

Nate was scared, but brave. Nate was also lucky.

Watch this interview, America. Look at what we've done to our children.

"I was going to go down fighting, if I was going to go down." - 6th grader Nate Holley survived the Colorado school shooting

"I was hiding in the corner, and they were right outside the door. I had my hands on a metal baseball bat, just in case, because I was going to go down fighting, if I was going to go down."6th grader Nate Holley survived the shooting at his school in Colorado.https://cnn.it/2VWkVJa

Posted by CNN on Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Officially, there is no war on American soil. Unofficially, we are training child soldiers in our schools.

When U.S. schools started doing regular active shooter drills, I felt conflicted. I was teaching at a high school when Columbine happened. At that point, school shootings were shocking and such drills were unheard of. Twenty years later, few of us are shocked by anything, and drills are old hat.

Being prepared seems wise, but schools in other developed nations don't regularly train for gunmen to walk into the building and start shooting children. It feels strange for us to be preparing kids to be shot at in a classroom. It feels wrong.

I've written a lot on this topic, but Nate Holley's interview shook me in a whole new way. Not just because of his innocence while describing a terrifying scenario. Not just because his sweet, freckled face shouldn't have to be telling this familiar story.

What shook me was his determination to "go down fighting." His instinct to grab a weapon and face down an attacker. The matter-of-fact way he talked about how he might "go down."

The newest approach to active shooter preparation in schools is telling staff, teachers, and schoolchildren to fight back, if the situation allows for it, with objects—staplers, paper weights, baseball bats.

In classrooms and cafeterias.

Against people with guns.

That only sounds wise and reasonable if we accept the premise that schools are potential war zones, and accept that our children will be soldiers in the fight. We are resigned to training children to fight an unofficial war.

America. Look at us. Look at what we are allowing to happen.

No child should have to play the hero against a shooter in their classroom because adults refuse to act.

When you live in this bizarre reality, it starts to feel normal. Even for those who despise it and are terrified by it, there's a normalcy to the regularity of school shootings. It's no longer if, but when, the next one will occur. When we train kids for it regularly, we've obviously accepted it as a natural possibility, like an earthquake or a tornado or a fire.

But it's not normal. This is not normal. Kids rehearsing school shootings is not normal anywhere in the developed world but here. We don't live in a war-torn nation, yet I'm afraid we are one degree away from training our children to respond to gunfire with gunfire. Is that not the next logical step? What else will we do when it becomes clear that staplers and baseball bats are no match for a semi-automatic arsenal?

Why do we prepare for the inevitability of mass shootings instead of doing everything in our power to prevent them? Naturally, prevention is more complex than simply strengthening gun legislation, but it's a huge piece of the puzzle that so many people want to pretend doesn't exist.

Evidence points to legislation, no matter how many people say that criminals don't follow laws.

We can talk about individual shootings all day long, but policy should be based on data. And the data shows that stronger gun laws correlate to lower gun deaths—not just in other developed countries, but even here in the United States.

Look the CDC's list of gun death rates in each U.S. state, then compare it with the gun laws in each state. Almost without exception, stronger gun laws equal lower gun death rates—and not by a little bit. The states with the highest gun death rates (Alaska, Alabama, Montana, Louisiana, Missouri—all lax gun laws) have more than five times the gun death rates of the states with the lowest (Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut—all strict gun laws). Follow the links above. Compare for yourself.

We need to stop pretending that our position as an outlier among our peer nations has nothing to do with our guns and gun laws. We need to stop acting like this is a partisan issue. We need to start putting our kids first, as any civilized nation would do.

We need to stop treating our children like would-be soldiers and give them the real childhood they deserve.

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