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Dear Governor Ducey,

I wrote to you last week about not wanting to write about guns, but today I want to write about guns because I can sense the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is starting to fall out of the headlines.  The Florida legislature seems to have passed some paltry measure limiting rifle sales and allowing some teachers to be armed. I’m not sure this will make the Parkland parents sleep better at night. Or the students.

My daughter Zoe had been freaked out by the shooting. I did not know how much until last Monday when she told me she was called into the principal’s office. Had Zoe ever met the principal at Mount Elden Middle School? Had I? I remember she said he waited at the door each morning to greet every kid, but I’m pretty sure I would not recognize him at the grocery store. I asked Z why she had to see the principal.

“Ruby and I. We wrote him a letter.”

“About what?”

“The shooting. We asked him what kinds of plans he had if a shooter came in. We wondered if we could have more training.”

“You wrote him a letter?”

“Yes, me and Ruby.”

“And you didn’t tell me?”

“We just wanted him to know we were worried.”

“So what did he say?”

“He explained that no one has ever gotten through a locked door. That the teachers have drills. They know what to do. He said school shootings are so very, very rare. But still, it’s too many.”

Then, Zoe and Ruby interviewed their teachers about whether they’d want to be armed in school. Her science teacher just said, “No, that’s a stupid idea.” Her history teacher said the problem is violence. How can the possibility of more violence help anything?

I asked Zoe if talking with them helped. She said yes. She asked if she could go home with Ruby on Wednesday to make a poster for the march on the 14th. I said of course.

She came home with a poster that read, “How many times will an innocent person die before we make stricter gun laws?”

Zoe is 12. The people who say the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school kids are “crisis actors” should meet Zoe. And then they should add five years and see how articulate a debater, how strong an advocate, how passionate a kid can be. It’s pretty simple to the kids. Guns are dangerous. AR-15s are particularly dangerous. There was one instance of a guy with a bomb in his shoe. Now every time we fly, we take off our shoes to go through security at the airport. Seven people died when Tylenol pills were tampered with. Now I stab myself with nail scissors every time I try to get past the tamper-proof lining on all over-the-counter pill bottles. I agree with the government-can-be scary people. I don’t want the government to eavesdrop on my cell phone conversations or track my Facebook likes or recognize my face at every traffic stop. And yet, I don’t think having a gun will prevent that. It’s a security blanket, this idea of a gun saving you from your government, from the robbers, the murderers. You can cling to your sweet woobie but most often, the woobie will be used against you.

All Zoe wanted was to know the principal could protect her. And he will try. But I don’t think anyone can protect us from the idea that shooting people will help anything. From the Stand Your Ground Laws to Conceal and Carry, who can protect us from the idea that guns should be a first line of defense instead of the last resort? Who can protect African Americans who have to chant, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”? Who can protect us from 15-year-old, 17-year-old, 19-year-old, 50-year-old boys who can’t figure out how to ask for help and decide to pick up a semi-automatic rifle instead? No one can protect us because we are all looking down the barrel of a violent, gun-toting people. The kids are saying, put down your guns. Let’s talk. Here’s a letter. Here’s a poster. Here are my words. Please listen.

Nicole Walker is an associate professor at Northern Arizona University, and is the author of Quench Your Thirst with Salt and a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg. She edited, with Margot Singer, Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction, and is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment from the Arts. The thoughts expressed here are hers alone and not necessarily those of her employer. For more letters, visit


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