Kids Go To School To Read, Not Die

I’m a mother and I’m mad, America. I’m fuming. 19 children died just days ago while sitting in class. Last week of school. They were nine to eleven-year-olds. I have a five-year-old and a three-year-old. At bedtime I hold them as close as I can, kiss them again and again and again. As if it’s not just another goodnight but the goodbye. As if I might lose them in the blink of an eye. What about the parents of Uvalde, Parkland, Newtown? How do they… I can’t even finish the thought.

Bullet by bullet the kids are dying, America. Blood everywhere, deep red and rancid. Kids call 911. Kids plead. Kids wait for seventy-eight damn minutes. They bleed and bleed as the police and politicians choose to wait on the sidelines.

Later those same politicians step up onto their brightly lit podiums and stand erect in front of their microphones, prayers on their lips, stashes of money in their pockets. And they say: Arm the teachers. One-door schoolhouses. More guards. Bulletproof backpacks. They say it’s not guns, it’s mental health. Yet they condemn social emotional learning for being a radical left-wing ideology, a “Trojan-horse” for critical race theory. They’d rather ban books in schools than pass gun laws.

Toni Morrison’s novels will give nightmares to students but not active shooter drills? No background checks for American history, no background checks for gun ownership. Is this how we protect the innocence of our kids, America? Is this how we define freedom?

Everytown Research & Policy reports that in 2022, even before the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, there had been 77 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in the United States, resulting in 14 deaths and 45 injuries. In 2021 there were 202 incidents, resulting in 49 deaths and 126 injuries. In 2020, 96 incidents, 24 deaths and 43 injuries. Between the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that claimed 20 students ages six to seven-year-old and the 2022 Robb Elementary School shooting of last week, there have been 950 school shootings.

Worshipping guns, offering children as sacrifice at the altar of the god NRA. Must be an American myth.

The United States has the weakest gun laws and the most guns—393 million in civilian hands—of any other comparable high-income nation. A day after turning 18, a boy in Texas who cannot buy a six-pack, can go ahead and buy two assault rifles and 375 rounds of 5.56-caliber ammunition. The state does not even require a license to carry those guns in public. Is the pursuit of violence just another unalienable right in this country?

Poet Allen Ginsberg asks you point blank, America: “When will you look at yourself through the grave?” How many massacres will it take?

I’m a mother. I’m an American citizen. I’m in agony and I’m mad. Yet it doesn’t take to be a mother or a citizen to know this: Kids go to school to read, not die.

Ipek S. Burnett is a depth psychologist and Turkish novelist living in San Francisco. She’s the author of A Jungian Inquiry into the American Psyche: The Violence of Innocence (Routledge, 2019). For more information visit: