Can We Talk About Gun Safety Now?

Just two weeks ago, I spent the day visiting Connecticut schools with Governor Malloy. We visited elementary schools that are planning to expand learning time next year through an initiative on which my organization, the National Center on Time & Learning, is partnering with the state. In my visits, I was energized by the creativity of the students and the dedication of the teachers, as I am every time I visit a school. Schools are dynamic, lively, and secure places -- or at least they should be.

And on Friday, all of that was shattered in Newtown, Connecticut. The community and nation is searching for answers, of which there are too few. As a parent of a kindergartener and an education policy advocate, I do want to lend my voice to the call for serious action on gun safety.

In his remarks last night, President Obama said, "No single law or series of laws can eliminate evil from the world...but that can't be an excuse for inaction." I could not agree more. My work in education policy over the past 20 years has shown me that although no single policy can solve every problem, legislative and policy changes do make a difference. For example, when I worked for President Clinton, we were able to create a bipartisan coalition to support legislation that provided resources for states to create new higher education standards -- the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. That policy laid the groundwork for the implementation of the Common Core Standards in states across the country today. Of course, the Common Core Standards will not solve every problem in education -- nor will expanding learning time -- but they are steps towards ensuring equal education to students across the country for years to come.

Gun safety is no different. We must be strategic and thoughtful, keeping the best interests of our children in mind. Just because no one law would have changed this outcome, that does not mean we can and should remain paralyzed. It is time to renew the bipartisan call for a ban on assault weapons as well as strengthen background checks on gun purchasers. The shooting of President Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, helped create the gun control legislation that was passed with bipartisan support. Let's make sure the senseless massacre of innocent six-year-olds -- and the series of similar incidents since that bill expired in 2004 -- create another opportunity for stronger gun safety enforcement. Getting assault weapons as well as high-capacity magazines off the open market and more comprehensive background checks are two tangible policies that could stop future communities from feeling the grief that Newtown and the nation are feeling today.

In education policy, there is much talk about where the U.S. stands in comparison to other industrialized nations. The recent release of the international math and science test (TIMMS) continue to show the U.S. in the middle of the pack in terms of student achievement. It is not common knowledge that the U.S. also falls down on comparisons of international child murder rates. Children ages five-to-14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as are children in other industrialized countries. It is time for the United States to lead the world in both education and child safety. What other issues could be more important?