'I'm an Aussie who lived in the US for 5 years. I refused to send my kids to school there.'

Last year my family and I relocated back home to Australia after living in the United States for five years. The rights stripped from women in the Roe Vs Wade decision had gutted me but many other things had devastated me in my time there.

The glaring disparity of wealth for one. I would walk past wedding designer shops in LA that sold dresses starting at $20,000, while unhoused people slept out front with everything they owned in a large garbage bag. I empathised with the distrusting and worn-down essential workers scanning groceries with hollowed eyes. I witnessed thousands of people aimlessly wandering crowded streets in need of both physical and mental support while the vast majority looked away. But nothing was more soul destroying than watching a country allow its children to be slaughtered on a daily basis by a small percentage of people who hold firm to their right to bear arms without consequence.

There have been over 130 mass shootings in the US this year. In schools alone, there have been 74 children or adults killed or injured by guns. JUST. THIS. YEAR. And it’s only March! On Tuesday, a gunman walked into a school in Nashville and committed yet another atrocity, killing three nine years olds, three adults and forever changing the trajectory of hundreds of lives. Once again causing millions of parents across the world to weep for this senseless waste of tiny souls. Once again forcing parents in the US to hug their children just a little bit tighter at school drop off the next day. And once again causing politicians to grandstand and scream into an endless void that never leads to any real or practical change.

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As a primary school teacher for over 20 years, I was fortunate enough to homeschool my children when we lived in the US. Sending them to a school in America was never an option in our minds. I never had to experience that fear of dropping them to the school gate and wondering if it would be the last time I would see them. Wondering if today would be the day they died a terrifying death at the hands of a mentally unwell person with legal access to weapons of mass destruction. But I did experience fear.


The fear of going to the movies and checking the exits and also people who came in alone sporting large backpacks, because most of these shooters are lone wolves, right? I did experience the fear of taking my children to pride parades in New York and LA while my husband subtly moved us away from potential threats like garbage bins as we skirted downside streets to avoid a police standoff with heavily armed men in Nazi uniforms. I experienced fear laying in our bed in Portland at night and listening to gunshots ringing out in the distance. I experienced fear in malls, coffee shops, in restaurants... always on the lookout for anyone who looked 'dodgy' or was acting erratically. 

After having lived in midtown LA and falling asleep each night to the constant thrumming overhead of police helicopters, we moved to the quiet and leafy suburb of Pasadena, just 11 miles from downtown LA, but a world away from the craziness of Hollywood Boulevard. We were told nothing ever happens there. Except Meryl Streep. Meryl happens to live there so how bad can it be? And it was lovely, and it was quiet, but on our first afternoon there we were walking to our apartment when swarms of tactical police descended on the steps of the local town hall armed with AR15s as they searched for an armed active shooter. Police helicopters called out from loud speakers overhead warning residents to lockdown. All while people sat on balconies sipping wine and eating cheese and crackers, calmly watching the scene below. Another mundane afternoon in America but highly confronting for this Australian family.


Reading the news in Nashville unfold last week, I once again had tears of anger and frustration, feeling like Dory from Nemo, as I tried to wrap my tiny brain around why this continues to happen. I said to my husband, "this starts with NRA of course, then the NRA feeds money to politicians who continue to push the gun agenda but people have to vote them in. People have to make a conscious decision to keep choosing this reality, otherwise the NRA would have no power" He looked at me baffled. Baffled that I continue to be baffled. Dory.

I think what perplexed me the most was the politician, Tennessee Rep. Andy Ogles, who represents the area affected by the gun violence this week offering 'thoughts and prayers' while a viral Christmas card he had posted from 2021 circulated on social media. In his since deleted tweet, four out of his five family members, including his teenage children, were holding assault rifles in front of a Christmas tree. People had voted for him. People had made a deliberate decision to take time out of their days, because it’s not mandatory in the US, and vote for someone who represents his own family in this strange and frightening way.

Image: Twitter.


Social media was again yesterday inundated with heartfelt US celebrity posts reminding parents that our one primary job as a parent is to keep our children safe. The majority of comments argued back that guns are inanimate objects and therefore alone, cannot kill people, people kill people. Is our country not filled with people? Are there not people in almost every other country across the world where school gun violence is almost non-existent?

It would be easy to sit in my privilege now and go about my day smugly carrying out mundane tasks like grocery shopping without fear. Going to the movies and just watching the movies and not the exits. Going to sleep to the sound of gulls and not gunshots. But the fact is, in our time in America we met, and grew to love, a lot of decent people there. Like in any country there are good and bad people, intelligent and dimwitted people. These people were just some millions of frustrated and scared parents living this reality every day. We owe it to them to continue to be saddened, outraged and baffled on their behalf. We can’t look away.

If you find yourself needing to talk to someone after reading this story, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Feature Image: Getty.