Dear Editor,

High School students who walked out against school gun violence in Toms River and Middletown are right to be concerned about the risk of active shooter situations in a school environment. Such threat is reality and therefore any prudent school must have a safety plan in place, with school buildings designed to impede a shooter, while allowing easy escape for students, faculty, and staff.

But what some of these students may be unaware of is that New Jersey already has extremely tight gun laws, and that it is other states that have less restrictive policies. While an urban young person involved in gang-related street crimes might have access to a smuggled or stolen firearm, a mentally-ill kid in the suburbs would have extreme difficultly obtaining a gun, unless they stole it from a family member.

The answer to ending gun violence is simply to require that every gun sold must carry a lifetime insurance policy paid by the manufacture, to cover damages in the event the gun is used in a crime. This provides a very strong financial incentive to ensure that guns are not sold to people who might misuse them.

We also need to address violence at it's core: we need stronger mental health services, with the creation of a national, free universal single payer public healthcare system for all. It is no coincidence that some of the states with the highest amount of these problems are most lacking in mental health.  We also need to meet the basic needs of the population with free public housing, higher education, food rations, and a livable income for all. Under a more equal society that takes care of it's citizens, people will be able to trust each other and violence will become a rarity. Until then, gun violence is shamefully reflective of the jungle our corporatist society has become, and mirrors U.S. military policy overseas.

We should also reflect on the fact that in Middletown it wasn't very long ago that a high school football game played host to a jingoistic celebration in opposition to NFL players supporting Black Lives Matter, why is it that when young, poor black people are being shot we are offended to hear their protests, yet the same thing happens to suburban white kids we are quick to react? I challenge students, faculty, staff, and parents to confront their own racism and classism in this reality, and through intersectionality determine who are targets and agents of oppression in the school environment and our society at large. When we scream school security, too often youth of color disproportionately  end up in the school to prison pipeline.

To stop violence in schools, we must stop violence in society.

Eric Hafner
Toms River, NJ