Get the latest from TODAY
Like other toddlers, Stacey Feeley’s 3-year-old daughter loves to make mischief, like when she flooded the bathroom earlier this week while washing her hands.
So when Feeley recently saw her daughter standing on top of a toilet seat, she snapped a photo thinking the girl was at it again — until she heard the chilling reason behind the unusual act.
“She said, ‘Practicing lockdown, but you have to be very quiet,’” Feeley recalled for TODAY. “At that moment I was just floored.”
Feeley said she initially meant to send the photo to her husband, but after talking with her daughter, she posted the image to Facebook instead with an urgent plea.
“Politicians — take a look. This is your child, your children, your grandchildren, your great grand children and future generations to come,” she wrote in the post.
“They will live their lives and grow up in this world based on your decisions. They are barely 3 and they will hide in bathroom stalls standing on top of toilet seats. I do not know what will be harder for them? Trying to remain quiet for an extended amount of time or trying to keep their balance without letting a foot slip below the stall door?”
Feeley said her daughter, the youngest of three, has no concept of the gravity behind her role-playing, or how much it has broken her mother’s heart.
“To her it was a normal, everyday drill. It was just a game she was playing at home. I know she doesn’t understand the scale of it,” she said, pointing out that the girl’s preschool explains the drill as a way to stay safe from “someone who is not supposed to be in the building.”
But her older sisters, ages 8 and 10, certainly understand the reason behind similar drills conducted at their own school, Feeley said.
The June 15 photo was posted just three days after a gunman killed 49 people and injured dozens more outside of an Orlando nightclub. It has since been shared more than 32,000 times and received more than 4,000 comments on Facebook.
Federal lawmakers recently debated a series of gun control bills introduced after the Orlando massacre. The bills failed to pass in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats held a 15-hour filibuster in an attempt to push for action. On Wednesday, House Democrats weighed in on the topic by staging a sit-in with about 60 legislators on the House floor.
In her post, Feeley also makes a strong statement for gun control and questions why universal background checks aren’t already in place. She also takes down people who describe the issue as a fight against the Second Amendment, saying “wiping out the right to bear arms is not on the table. Does anyone really think that will be accomplished?”
Feeley said she grew up in Texas with many “pro-gun” friends who she knew would have opposite opinions, but she felt compelled to speak out about what she saw.
“I’m not an activist, I’m not trying to get out there and campaign for all sorts of things. I just want to wake people up to have a discussion about how things in our society are changing,” she said. “What can we do so that it’s not so scary? And what can we do to prevent these crimes from happening?"
Still, Feeley said she's been surprised by the vitriol expressed in some of the comments to her post.
“It’s kind of mind-blowing because there’s no middle ground. It seems like you’re either this or you’re that. It’s so extremist, and that’s what I find so hard to accept,” she said.
Feeley hopes her post will encourage a discussion, one without politics, as well as “outside-of-the-box thinking” to handling the burgeoning problem of gun violence.
“Again, it’s amazing to me that so many politicians are fine with the way things are," she said. "I don’t know how they’re OK with asking our teachers to be our security guards. It’s that kind of thing that makes me nuts. They’re educators, they’re not security guards.”
Follow TODAY.com writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.