Pens In, Guns Out

In fifth grade, my teacher selected my short story about a town in the middle of nowhere, Bamberg, South Carolina. I won an award for writing: the Lieutenant Governor’s Writing Award.

I chose the image of Mizpah Church in Bamberg County, and that story inspired my manuscript Sons of the Edisto. Two stories inspired by the book have been published in e-zines.

I am not a best-selling author. My achievements are small victories. But, Out with the Old, The Way Things Are and Sons of the Edisto began in an elementary school.

Every elementary school in S.C. selects one fifth grader for the award. According to, S.C. has 626 elementary schools. You do the math.

All the students who have won the award received the opportunity to pick up a pencil and write.

Spokeswoman, Malala Yousafzai, gave a speech to the UN wearing former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s white shawl. She spoke for every child’s right to have an education. Photo courtesy of

I forget how old I was when the shootings occurred at Columbine High School in 1999, but it was not the last of its kind. In Ohio, high school students lost their lives. Then in December 2012, twenty children lost their lives. The Newtown students were denied the right to pick up their pens again.

Growing up, my classmates and I learned of violence overseas where small boys were kidnapped to become soldiers or innocent children were killed in the Middle East.

Let us strip away opposing religious and political beliefs for one minute.

Consider first the joy of a child who smiles at you. He or she has completed a story. It will receive recognition from teachers, classmates, parents or from state or provincial officials.

Where can that happen?


This time think of a violent person whose intent is to kill. He or she walks into a school. The perpetrator murders children with pens who will never write a story.

Where can this happen?


Law enforcement guides students away from Newtown Elementary. Courtesy of

Malala Yousafzai was riding a bus to school when a Talib climbed on. He shot her and her friends.

Children rode to school in December 2012 looking forward to their Christmas break. Perhaps they were looking forward to giving their teacher a present. Perhaps they had given their parents a wish-list. Twenty children never came out.

On the same December morning, I played Hannakuh and Christmas music. I substitute taught for an elementary school teacher. First graders and second graders danced, sang and played instruments. When I arrived home, the news told me what happened to another group of elementary students.

Newtown students and staff are remembered. Courtesy of

I live in a conservative state. Most of my family members hold conservative beliefs, including strong support for the second amendment. At the same time, three women in my family served the South Carolina school system. One dedicated her life teaching children to read and write.

When I ask myself what is more important: to own a gun or a child’s right to feel protected, the answer is common sense.

When I, as an author, remember where my journey began, I sat at a desk with a pen.

When I, as an educator, think of students: I believe in what Malala said to the UN.

“Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

Courtesy of

When anyone who lives in a Western country thinks school shootings or the murder of children is in place far away, Google your country’s headlines again.

Give a child a pen and paper. Teach him or her to read. You never know what the child will say.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson


4 thoughts on “Pens In, Guns Out

  1. I am a firm believer in the second ammendment, but I also cannot condone what happens when unbalanced people misuse the freedom they have been given. As the state of Connecticut had already told this freak he couldn’t legally own a gun, the passage of more laws seems an ineffective solution to a difficult problem. So, despite my firm belief in the second ammendment, I am in agreement with you. The more we educate people, the more we urge the children of tomorrow to not use – misuse – the gun as the only solution to a problem, the more we make them see that using a gun is no solution to any problem, the better off our society will be.

    Congratulations on your award and thanks for your thought-provoking post.


    1. Thank you, Tim, for your thoughtful comment! I know not everyone will agree with me. I hate romance movies and chick-flicks, but I am on the verge of tears when something happens to a child.

      I don’t know what the entire solution is. Prohibition taught us we cannot completely not allow something because people will go against it. It creates more problems. I do think more money needs to go towards education. Too many children in the world, including America, are without the proper tools or education.

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