Editor's note: Sam Peter, a 10-year-old fifth-grader from Harahan, was not allowed to testify at a recent committee hearing at the Louisiana Legislature about a bill that would have allowed teachers to be armed. The bill later died in committee. Although children testify at the Capitol from time to time, state Rep. Sherman Mack, an Albany Republican who chairs the Administration of Criminal Justice Committee, told Peter that he could not. At The Advocate's request, Peter wrote this commentary, which includes some of the thoughts on the proposed legislation that he planned to share with lawmakers:
It is important for people to be able to speak. Here in America, being able to speak is a right. Everybody should be able to use that right.
I also think everybody who wants to give an opinion about laws should be able to do so. Grown-ups can vote. Kids like me cannot. This is why I think it’s especially important for kids to be able to give their opinions about bills before they can be made into laws. We are affected by laws the same way grown-ups are, but I think many times people forget this. In some cases, like with guns, young people can be even more affected by laws than grown-ups are. The journal Pediatrics says that gun deaths are now the third-biggest killer of kids. It also says that here in Louisiana, kids have a bigger chance of dying from guns than in any other state. It is scary.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that every year about 2,737 kids die from guns in America. That is 10 times my school and almost as many people who died on September 11, 2001 in the World Trade Center. It is like having a World Trade Center of kids dying every year. If teachers had guns, then that number would probably rise because kids would probably get shot by mistake. I think it was important for the legislators to hear things from a kid's view.
This is why young kids like me should get a chance to speak. I agree with the Louisiana Constitution that says in Section 7: “Every person may speak, write, and publish his sentiments on any subject…” It does not say what age you have to be.
I think if grown-ups would consider what children like me have to say, better laws might be passed.