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Spencer Rendahl: Bus Incident

Last winter I received an email alert from my daughter’s school titled “bus incident.” The superintendent wrote that as a bus full of kids was coming close to the end of its morning route, a student “noticed a glint of gold” on the bus steps. That glint actually turned out to be brass, and it was a bullet, which the student promptly picked up and handed to the bus driver. The bus driver contacted dispatch about the "situation,” and was directed to drive the bus to the police department.

After the principal arrived and interviewed students, authorities searched backpacks, and the kids made it back to school. It was the type of incident that might shut down a school in Connecticut or Massachusetts. Most parents I talked to about it around town shrugged their shoulders and agreed that the bullet probably fell out of a kid’s jacket which was worn during a hunting trip.

I thought of this incident when Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders defended his mixed gun control voting record during the first Democratic primary debate by insisting he represents a rural state.

Now, Bernie’s no friend of the National Rifle Association. He’s voted for a ban on semi-automatic weapons and for instant criminal background checks. But a recent profile in The New Yorker noted that he’s also voted against the Brady Bill and for allowing guns in national parks and on Amtrak trains.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Vermont has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the nation. And while many of those guns may be used for hunting and self-defense, Vermont isn’t entirely immune to national problems with gun violence – as demonstrated by recent events. It also has a high rate of suicides by firearms: 13th in the nation, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

We live in a country where mass shootings have become almost routine, and according to The Washington Post, gun violence has even become an issue with toddlers – who’ve been killing or injuring themselves or others on almost a weekly basis this year.

Here in northern New England, hunting is a way of life, and for some it’s still an important means of putting food on the table. But the national epidemic of gun violence doesn’t stop at our borders, and a bullet found on a school bus should at least make us stop and think.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl is a former journalist whose work has appeared in publications including the Boston Globe. She lives with her husband and two children in Plainfield, NH.
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