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IFT passes resolution supporting efforts to prevent gun violence

4/02/2018
School Safety and Ending Gun Violence
Passed by the IFT Executive Board on March 24, 2018

WHEREAS, all students deserve safe, welcoming, supportive school environments where they can learn and thrive without fear; and

WHEREAS, no parent should send his or her child to school and fear that the child may never come home, and no child should be afraid to go to school; and

WHEREAS, no academic faculty, professional faculty, staff or student in an institution of higher education should fear for their lives or be victimized by gun violence while attending class or living the life of the academy; and

WHEREAS, principals, administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals and other school staff have shown over and over again their instinct to shield and protect students in tragic shootings, and their acts of heroism should be celebrated while we focus on the work needed to ensure safe environments free from gun violence; and

WHEREAS, in the wake of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., we said, “never again,” yet there have been 239 school shootings since Newtown, with 438 people shot and 138 murdered—most recently the 17 students, teachers and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.; and

WHEREAS, the 2008 Northern Illinois University shooting was committed using legally purchased semi-automatic weapons by a perpetrator with a history of mental illness; and 

WHEREAS, the mass murder of students, teachers and staff at Stoneman Douglas High School was committed using a legally purchased AR-15—the same weapon used in mass murders in Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; Orlando, Fla.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Sutherland Springs, Texas; Las Vegas, Nev.; and more; and  

WHEREAS, since the shootings at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colo., first shocked our nation, students, parents and educators have fought tirelessly to put an end to gun violence in our schools and communities and are now at the forefront of organizing efforts in the wake of the mass murder in Parkland; and

WHEREAS, there continues to be a rampaging public health and social catastrophe owing to gun violence in our communities, such that in 2017 there were 2,785 shootings and 650 gun deaths in Chicago alone while Illinois experienced 1,220 gun deaths in 2015 (the latest CDC data available); and

WHEREAS, the National Rifle Association has stood in our way, using money and threats and influence to oppose every commonsense reform of gun laws as an assault on the Second Amendment rather than a means to ensure the safety of Americans, while also shielding gun manufacturers from all legal liability related to the sale or use of their products; and

WHEREAS, Governor Bruce Rauner has failed to protect the citizens of Illinois from this scourge of violence, recently vetoing bipartisan legislation that would reasonably regulate gun dealers while he has also slashed funding for social services and mental health providers and held up new money for our most needy school districts, money that could be used to provide more school counselors, social workers, psychologists, all on the front line protecting our students; and

WHEREAS, like Rauner, President Trump and national Republicans have also ignored this crisis, offering, at best, rhetorical gestures and, at worst, blatant hypocrisy—from singularly focusing on mental health interventions (and ignoring gun restrictions) while simultaneously slashing funding for and access to mental health care for everyone from school-age children to adults, to Betsy DeVos’s and others’ misguided suggestions that we arm teachers and staff and militarize our schools; and  

WHEREAS, Illinois and American students—led by the courageous young people of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School—are now leading the charge to prevent further tragedy:  

RESOLVED, that the Illinois Federation of Teachers will support commonsense measures to stop gun violence in schools and institutions of higher education, including further school safety efforts, reforms such as bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, background checks and other vetting processes, and regulation of gun dealers; and

RESOLVED, that the IFT opposes counter-productive ideas like arming faculty and staff; and  

RESOLVED, that the IFT will continue to fight for expansion of mental health care for all, including: defending and fully funding the Affordable Care Act, expanding access to public mental health facilities and services for all Illinoisans, and fully staffing every school in Illinois with qualified mental health counseling and student support services to identify and intervene before students reach a crisis point; and  

RESOLVED, that the IFT will be a conduit for listening to members and students, encouraging our locals to amplify their voices and experience in the public sphere to more effectively fight this scourge; and

RESOLVED, that the IFT will redouble its efforts to defeat Gov. Bruce Rauner and elect a governor who will sign reasonable and needed gun control measures into law; and

RESOLVED, that the IFT will work to find ways to combat the stranglehold the NRA and gun manufacturers have on policy in this arena, including exploring calling for divestment of Illinois public pension funds from the gun industry; and

FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED, that the IFT will work to support the courageous efforts of all survivors of gun violence—from Stoneman Douglas to Sandy Hook, from Northern Illinois to the streets of Chicago--and all those who fight for schools that are free from gun violence, by adding our locals’ voices to actions around the country to fight the scourge of gun deaths, including on the April 20 day of action on the anniversary of the Columbine massacre, and others that may occur in the ensuing weeks and months.
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