Dear Local presidents, UniServ Presidents, and OEA Board of Directors,
Like many of you, I have spent the past days in sorrow and frustration over the shootings in California, New York, and most recently, Robb Elementary. In case anyone in the public hadn’t heard yet, it is abundantly clear that our youth are not ok and easy access to high powered guns is not helping. The lack of youth access to mental health professionals, the isolation of the pandemic, and the lack of common sense gun laws have created a problem that more and more defines America. Despite our country’s wealth and creativity, we still cannot keep our most vulnerable community members safe from mass shootings, even in their 4th grade classrooms.
As we move from despair into action, I want to share with you some steps that members can take this month. Educators are not alone in wanting change, and OEA is proud to support community efforts that match our goals for safe and healthy schools.
- March for Our Lives, the organization founded by Parkland student survivors, is holding a national day of rallies on June 11. Members can use this web site to put their zip code in to find the march closest to them, and volunteer to support the effort or organize their own march. So far marches are planned in Portland, Salem, Sherwood and Beaverton. If members attend, we encourage them to identify themselves as educators. OEA Vice President Enrique Farrera will be attending a march in Portland and will be reaching out to Board directors to coordinate.
- Members who wish to support legislative efforts should consider signing IP 17, The Reduction of Gun Violence Act. Signature sheets can be downloaded from this site. IP 17, The Reduction of Gun Violence Act, is being sponsored by a coalition of faith leaders. It would do two important things: limit the ammunition capacity of firearms magazines and require a permit to purchase a firearm. Both of these strategies have been shown to be very effective in limiting gun violence. OEA has a commitment to supporting a comprehensive approach to gun safety legislation that includes such proposals as a ban on the sale and interstate transportation of automatic and semi-automatic paramilitary assault weapons and high capacity magazines, as well as universal background checks on all firearm purchases.
In order for IP 17 to make the ballot, the initiative has to be signed by 112,020 valid voters by July 8, 2022.
- I also want you to know that we have made significant progress already in Oregon. Your efforts have helped ensure that the Oregon Legislature has already passed common-sense legislation on background checks, domestic violence prohibitions, safety research, safe storage, extreme risk protective orders (so-called “Red Flag” avenues to limit possession), as well as prohibitions on guns in schools and other public buildings.
Next session, we anticipate legislation prohibiting gun purchases for those under the age of 21, prevention of the possession of so-called “ghost guns” and guns made with 3-D printing. Here’s a link to a list of what has been passed in Oregon and what is still being considered. Elections matter. Please encourage your members to vote in November.
I know members have been asking you like they have been asking me what next steps are. Conversations at the regional and national level are currently in progress – I will let you know as things develop.
In courage and solidarity,
Reed Scott-Schwalbach, OEA President