Letter to the editor: Initiative 1639 will make schools safer for students

Dear editor:

Do you know what it is like to enter school the day after yet another deadly school shooting?

I do.

I am a 15-year-old high school sophomore, and I am part of the “mass-shooting generation.” Gun violence is a huge part of my generation and I have never known going to school without lock-down or active-shooter drills. I started practicing lock-down drills when I was 5. In kindergarten, teachers told students they were hiding in case a bear tried to get into the classroom, but by the time I was in third grade, most of us had figured out what we were really practicing for. Later, after 20 first graders and six of their teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, the experts figured out that once a shooter was in the school, just locking down and hiding under our tables could make us easier targets, and that the likelihood of survival would increase if we knew how to lock-down, escape and fight back. By the time I was in seventh grade, our drills changed from passive lock down drills to non-passive active-shooter drills.

I have now been trained to be a front line of defense if the next mass shooting is ever at my school. And now some lawmakers have proposed training students in emergency medical triage as well. There is already a lot to deal with as a teenager. On top of all that, each time I enter a new classroom, I must consider where I can hide, where the nearest exit is, what objects are available to throw to protect myself, and how to save a classmate from bleeding out.

Instead of passing laws to reduce gun violence and protect students, those elected to represent us have chosen to ignore the issue and have put the burden of protection on the students and teachers. We are tired of being scared for our safety and lawmakers not fixing things to protect us. So, we are now speaking out to try to change the future of gun violence in this country, both for ourselves and for the generations to come.

  • We believe that the right to own a gun should not be a right to irresponsibly store the gun, giving a child easy access to play with it and accidently shoot, injure, or kill themselves or another.
  • We believe that the right to own a gun should not be a right to keep it unsecured and allow a depressed teen or young adult to get ahold of it and, in a state of temporary desperation, end their life.
  • We believe that the right to own a gun should not be a right to store it irresponsibly and allow yet another teenage boy who is angry at a girl, to get a hold of that weapon and go into a school or party and kill her and other students.

School shootings and the increase in teen suicide are two main reasons the Alliance for Gun Responsibility is sponsoring an initiative to the people called I-1639: Safe Schools, Safe Communities. This initiative will directly address gun violence by:

  • Requiring secure storage of firearms- helping to prevent children, teens and other “unauthorized users” from having access to a deadly weapon.
  • Increasing the age to buy a semi-automatic rifle to 21- the same age to legally purchase a handgun.
  • Creating an enhanced background check, 10-day waiting period, and requirements for firearm safety training.

These are all simple measures that will work together to protect against another school or mass shooting- BEFORE it happens!

I may be too young to vote, but you can. On election day I am asking you to vote “YES” on Initiative 1639 “Safe Schools, Safe Communities.”  Visit The Alliance for Gun Responsibility to learn more, donate, or volunteer.

Emma Johnson



  1. Thank you, Emma, for speaking up. As the mother of a 14 year old high school girl, I fear daily for her safety for the exact reasons that you cite. The time is NOW to make our schools and communities safer. I, for one, am voting YES on I-1639.

  2. This really opened my eyes as to the pressures that are put on you as students and teachers nowadays in the schools because of these senseless acts… and how these sensible changes to our laws can help make a difference. I have spoken to some responsible gun owners regarding the initiative and they feel that these new laws would be welcomed by them.

  3. Thank you Emma. I’ve taken the liberty of forwarding your thoughtful and compelling article on to local Edmonds Moms websites to raise awareness, common sense and their votes.

  4. I am sorry that the older generation has let you down, you and all the children who have grown up with this constant threat, knowing that the rest of us are bickering over the rights of the NRA to spread their hatred and fear, to shut down all nationally funded research on gun violence, to buy the best congress money can buy. We haven’t settled the matter of what the second amendment’s “well-regulated militia” really means. I am sorry that you suffered but I am very proud of your ability to turn pain into political voice. Thank you for speaking up. I hope you inspire lots of young people to vote this November.

    1. What hatred does the NRA spread? And isn’t this effort to further restrict gun ownership also playing on more fear than facts?

      I’m sorry that more children (at the appropriate age) are not educated about guns and know more about them instead of what they see in the movies or in the news.

      I’m sorry that children aren’t taught that the use of a firearm actually saves more lives in our country each year than takes them.

      I’m sorry that more kids don’t tell adults about troubled friends/classmates before those kids act out violently.

      I’m sorry that if this initiative passes my 18 year old Eagle Scout won’t be allowed to shoot any semi-automatic rifle, let alone purchase one. No target shooting, no hunting, no access. Period.

      1. Rebecca,
        I think we can agree that more gun owners being educated about their weapons would go a long way toward preventing gun violence. When I was young I learned that safe storage was a part of responsible gun ownership. Unfortunately, hunter’s safety programs, once the corner of the NRA are no longer prevalent and gun owners often don’t know how to handle their firearms or appreciate their power. This legislation requires a responsibility that should be part of gun ownership.
        Please take a look at this legislation using a non-partisan source. I think you will find that it isn’t as restrictive as you suggest. Yes, semi-automatic rifle ownership will be restricted to 21+. However, families will continue to enjoy shooting sports all across the state. Is it so much to ask if we restrict tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and even car rentals, shouldn’t a machine designed to quickly kill multiple victims in seconds be restricted as well?
        Congratulations on your eagle scout. That is a massive achievement. It’s nice to know that our community is full of young leaders like your son and Emma. I’m sure their generation will find a way to look past the partisanship and find common sense when it comes to this issue. We should admire young people who are willing to share their story and encourage all of us to vote.

        1. Sandra,

          Check out this page and then let’s continue the posting…


          This initiative will burden law abiding citizens regarding their personal property. It will not make schools safer. But having resource officers on campus, having better security and not telegraphing that schoola are gun free, will make a difference. And my son will not be able to access guns that he has grown up using safely until he is 21 if this initiative passes. Period.

        2. Rebecca,
          A week later you come up with a reply using a highly biased right wing think tank. Please seek out non-biased sources. We can’t have an intelligent conversation about this if we are unwilling to use reasonable resources. Most people are in favor of common sense safety legislation. I-1639 is just that. With rights come responsibilities.

        3. Sorry you can’t see the truth of what I-1639 will do to law abiding gun owners in our state. It will further restrict private gun ownership. And it will not stop disturbed people from committing acts of violence. Look at the increase of crime in “gun free” countries like England.

          I posted a week later because I have other things in my life to attend to. I was truly being polite when I posted yesterday as I thought you were owed a reply and again, I’m sorry my source was not “good enough” for you. If this passes I will go on with my life. I won’t scare my children into thinking it’s the worst thing ever or hold a grudge for two years. I won’t think people who believe I-1639 are dumb, mean or evil. I do think they are misguided, but they have a right to their opinion and their vote.

          I won’t be screaming in the streets, attacking those with whom I disagree with online or wishing them bodily harm. I also won’t be trying to break into any branch of government demanding I “get my way”. Fortunately, I have faith and it is not in man (or woman), but in my Lord Jesus Christ.

          So dear friend, I pray that you may know how much you are loved today and always.

          And perhaps we could meet up and have a cup of coffee. My treat! I’m at Walnut Cafe often or at Cafe Ladro.

        4. I’m pretty sure I do none of the things you suggest I might do here. I think you will find that I use my 1st amendment rights with decorum, and I work for causes and candidates I believe in. You are painting with the wide brush. I’m not assuming anything about you and only suggest you may want to look at this issue more closely. I’d be happy to meet you and I’ll bring a few pamphlets along to show you that safety legislation can and does save lives. Quality sources make us all better voters. I have both faith in a higher power AND the men and woman of my community. I know we can work together to make this a safer healthier place for all.

  5. For me this argument always comes down to doing something that supports our political philosophy or something that might work. Best case of course would be if it does both, but usually that is not the case.

    More and more I am in the camp of lets do something that works. Going back through the past school shootings how many are you confident that 1639 would have prevented?

    I may be wrong but it seems that mass shootings occur far more often in the “good” schools, not the “bad” schools. Why does it seem to always be a “good suburban school” instead of a “troubled inner city school” where these incidents take place? This would suggest it is less about funding issues than something else. Heck it would even seem like it is less about the general criminality of the students involved.

    There is little support for something like arming some teachers but how often have schools that have done this had a mass shooting versus the ones that have not? There is a school district in Washington State that armed teachers years ago, the fact that even our Governor was not aware of this just a few months ago shows how many problems it has caused.

    Between 1639 and arming teachers which is more likely to make us feel good about “doing something” and which is more likely to stop the next mass school shooting?

    1. Tony, We armed pilots and a random passenger on commercial flights. There hasn’t been a hijacking since, which can’t be contributed to the TSA’s gun control attempts being that they fail to detect 95% of firearms in audits.

  6. I am part of the task force assessing each of our school buildings needs. We have buildings that are new and some that are more than 50 years old. The design of all the newer buildings takes into account “security” and how one can gain access to the buildings. The new buildings all are more secure than the older ones. As a community we should be willing to pay for the needed upgrades to make our older building more secure. My guess is we will not be willing to pay for these upgrades or replacements.

    1. While agreeing with you that we need to upgrade these old buildings I also have to wonder was Parkland a design problem, lack of proper funding or something else? Why did it occur on a campus that many smaller colleges around the country would love to have instead of a crumbling hs school in Philly?

      1. Tony, their is no single answer to increase safety for our kids. Bad folks can find a way to do harm at a new or old school. But there are several things that can increase safety. We can do a cost/benefit analysis of the ideas and decide how to allocate our resources. I visited a school recently and was told how difficult is it to do a lock down at 50+yr old school as opposed to the newer schools built in the last few years. If we are truly interested in school safety we should look at all things that will help.

  7. This point is not much more macabre than a hypothetical bear, but when Anakan Skywalker killed all the younglings at the Jedi Temple no one blamed the Light Saber. The facts are, violence in all categories has been falling nationwide. School shootings actually peaked in ’93-94. However, there is an arms race that does threaten our schools; our kids have become the Conch Shell that both politicians use for their agenda and very sick teens use to get national attention. Nicolas Cruz specifically said national attention was a motivation. If there weren’t a steady decline in shootings at schools, if there were an increasing trend, then it would be more likely caused by the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy effect of writing to papers, contacting your politicians and getting all the Edmonds Moms together to picket.

    One tragedy [like a plane crash] is too much, but it’s not an epidemic:

    People are playing part in what could be a Self Fulfilling Prophecy:

    … an idea first put forward by the late Roger Ebert:

    Very well written article.

    1. It’s not entirely unsubstantiated, in that the anti-gun agenda actually contributed to the further proliferation of firearms (who can deny that?), it could be argued that if not for the anti-gun agenda there may have been fewer school shootings as well.

      1. Are you seriously implying that campaigns to increase gun safety and reduce gun violence have perpetuated school shootings?

        1. Yes, I (and Roger Ebert) are explicitly saying that targeted attacks on schools would be even less common if not for anti-gun rhetoric, news, anti-gun politicians, and social media. I think we all agree that wanting national attention is a [sometimes the] motivation of shooters from Columbine to Cruz. That attention plays into their motivation.

          Where people disagree is that some argue that more guns means more school shootings (which is patently false according to numbers). Lets assume otherwise for a moment; the boon in firarms sales is mostly a response from those afraid of losing their rights purchasing guns ahead of impending gun control measures. [Redneck voice] “Der gonna take our guns, so Ill buy them while I still can!” People are arming themselves as a response to anti-gun rhetoric, news, anti-gun politicians, and social media. I don’t think many would deny that rhetoric created/intensified a gun counter-culture. Again, even if guns can be said to be both the motive and opportunity behind mass shootings, the net result of the gun control agenda has been more guns. Every letter to the editor reminds someone to buy another firearm. 🙁

        2. Shooter drills are a good thing, but they also have the downside of training the shooter about what will happen if the shooter is somone that participated in the drill. Lock downs are a good thing, unless you lock the shooter inside with you. Gun free zones are a great thing, unless some coward sees it as a safe hunting ground. How many mass shootings take place in tough inner city schools where its more likely that some random person will push back instead of wait for the police?

          It really comes down to is it more important to stop the next shooting or pass agendas? If the former propose things that will stop shootings, on the one side arm people in the schools on the other side ban all guns everywhere. No more feel good nibble bills that would do more to make some people feel good than stop the shootings.

        3. Above was NOT my statement. I had the statement regarding what would have happened if the airlines had not increased security with guns and such at airports? It has reduced airplane hi-jacking ten fold. I also said I believe they should increase or update schools. how did what I stated get mixed up??

  8. So, Emma, since I no longer have young children or any clinically depressed people in my home, why should I have to keep my gun(s) stored locked and separate from my ammunition, thus eliminating its effectiveness as a self-defense tool? How is it fair or legal to charge the gun owner if his/her weapon is STOLEN by tresspassers from inside their LOCKED home or vehicle, when car owners aren’t held liable for damage and injuries committed by their stolen vehicle? Do you realize that the US Constitution guarantees our right to keep and bear arms, that the State of WA has an extra safeguard of preemption in our own Constitution that says these rights can not be infringed? Do you realize that most murders are committed with HAND guns—-not long guns, as this initiative targets? There is no such classification of “assault’ weapons, so this initiative now categorizes EVERY single semi-automatic rifle (just meaning you don’t have to manually rechamber the nexd round between trigger pulls) as the dreaded “assault” rifle. This would affect too many legal hunting rifles and would no longer allow anyone under 21 to hunt or engage in shooting sports, even though we allow them to fight for our country with much more powerful weapons than these. Without any grandfather clause, those <21 would have to relinquish any such firearms they already legally possess—–and selling them is specifically banned! This measure is not about saving lives. It's about control and trying to get a gun registry in place, which is always the first step to gun confiscation. Criminals will not be affected by all the many provisions in this initiative; it only targets legal gun owners. This also unfairly discriminates against low income gun owners, since investing in a safe that can't be breached with "normal tools" could cost thousands. Renters would never be allowed to have such a safe bolted into the floor, which is a necessity for a truly 'secure' gun safe. The open-ended, undefined "fees" for transfer and required training every 5 years could be cost prohibitive to many. (What other Constitutionally-protected right requires continued fees, testing, and medical "review" to practice?? ) No one should have to indefinitely waive their rights to medical privacy to own a gun—-especially when the "medical/psychological conditions" THEY will deem ineligible for gun ownership haven't been designated (moving goalposts). There is already a NICS for background checks, which are already required on ALL firearms transfers and sales in Washington. Moot issue, as that's already law here.

    Emma, if you feel unsafe in school, you really should insist that they remove the "No Gun Zone" designation that clearly never stops anyone intent on doing harm, but instead makes you a sitting duck. The money behind this initiative is mostly from out-of-state, and backed by the groups who openly admit their ultimate goal is to ban private gun ownership. Total gun control and to abolish the 2nd Amendment is their aim. Vote NO on I-1639!

    1. Kelly, very good points regarding the liability of stolen vehicles verse what’s proposed for stolen firearms. You also touched on the phenomenon, a cultural shift, of throughout human history young adults longed for responsibility whereas today there is a surprising amount not wanting to become adults at 18yo. I joined the AF at 16, shipped out at 17, deployed to foreign war at 18. This initiative seeks to codify a new type of age discrimination. A 17yo is still expected to pay taxes, eligible for draft?

  9. Vote NO on I-1639. We do need to upgrade and make schools safer. Put in a armed guard. But, you can do all this and I guarantee you if you have a mentally ill person, they can always find ways to kill. Stop with the gun free zones. It didn’t work. Can you imagine what would have happened when there were a rush of airplane high jackers, you announced a no gun zone now at airports???

  10. Old news coverage from 1998 is sobering. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D48OoBNsZQ8

    Parents blamed the school for not providing prudent security and not following protocol, sheriff department for not following leads, and the shooters (obviously). The Columbine institutions, like the school and the sheriff, artfully avoided responsibility before and after. Why aren’t the schools held responsible for the protection of our kids like a bank would be with our money? The video is a good flashback to when journalism was objective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.