(Juneau Empire file photo)

Letter: What’s wrong with this picture?

At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24, I and several other moms and grandmas went to the Alaska Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, chaired by Sen. Jesse Bjorkman. We got there early to sign up to testify against Senate Bill 173, which would arm teachers and staff in Alaska schools.

We were there for two hours. The first hour was a presentation about UAA’s career programs. The next hour was taken up by the sponsor of SB173, Sen. Shelley Hughes. With the chair’s permission, Sen. Hughes invited mostly Lower 48 call-ins to testify about how her “guns in the schools” bill would save lives of our Alaskan children. When the last pro-SB173 outsider was done testifying, Sen. Bjorkman adjourned the meeting because the committee was out of time.

I and many other Alaskans, who are concerned about the very high rate of gun suicide and gun violence in Alaska, have been trying to get a safe storage of guns bill through the legislative process for four years. I am convinced this “Secure Storage Bill,” HB164, would save more children’s lives by keeping guns locked, than SB 173 which puts more guns within their reach. According to the Save Our Schools advocacy resource, the odds of being involved in a school shooting over 13 years of a student’s attendance is 0.2%.

The “Secure Storage Bill” is intended to reduce accidental shootings and youth suicide. This bill, HB164, awaited action all of the 2021-2022 legislative session and is still waiting to be heard in committee as the 2023-2024 two-year session winds down.

What’s wrong with this picture? Why does newly introduced Senate Bill 173, arming teachers and staff, get scheduled to be heard for its second time next Friday when, after four years, our gun safety bill to protect children from accidental injuries and death is still waiting its turn? My guess is that the NRA is calling the shots.

Joyanne Bloom