Friday, December 13, 2013

One Year Since Newtown: What Have You Done to Stop Gun Violence?

One year ago tomorrow, 20 young children and 6 adults were killed in their elementary school by a man with an assault rifle. Following the massacre, Congress made an effort to adopt some reasonable additional gun laws including expanded background checks that might help prevent further murders and massacres. Yet the NRA and its Congressional servants (i.e., those members of Congress who accept NRA blood money) were able to defeat legislation that was popular with the American public.

In the year since the massacre at Newton, nearly two hundred children, aged 12 and under, have been killed by guns. Some were killed when they played with a gun they found in a house. Some were killed by a sibling or friend playing with a gun. Some were killed as a part of a murder-suicide. 84 were accidents; 103 were homicides. 127 of those children were killed in their own homes.

But does any of that really matter? No. What matters is that children keep dying.

Back in May, I published two posts in which I looked at the frightening number of children who were killed or wounded by guns (or who used guns to kill or wound others): Guns in America: “Just One of Those Crazy Accidents” and Guns in America: “Just One of Those Crazy Accidents” (update).

Anyway, as anyone who reads this blog will recognize, gun violence has always been of concern to me and the shooting at Newtown touched me deeply. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, I became a contributor to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, I began calling my Senators and Congresswoman regularly to demand action, I’ve worked to help organize a community dialog on gun violence and gun laws (which may or may not happen early next year), and I’ve used this blog to write post, after post, after post about the horrors of gun violence and the need for better gun laws. Yet here we are, a year later, and nothing really has changed. If anything, it’s worse, as many states have actually made it easier to get a gun and expanded the rights that gun owners have (often at the expense of the rest of society, I’d argue).

So here is my question to you: What specifically have you done since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School to be sure that no more children are killed in their schools by gunfire? What specifically have you done to be sure that people with mental illness don’t have access to guns? What specifically have you done to help get assault rifles and other military-style weaponry off of our streets?

And, if you haven’t done something to project our schools, our homes, our families, and our children from the scourge of gun violence … why the fuck not?

Nothing is going to happen unless and until those of us who don’t worship at the altar of the gun say “enough is enough” and demand that our legislators take real action. While you’re enjoying the holiday season with your families, think about all of those families who are missing a loved one this year because of a gun. Then ask yourself how you would feel if the gun violence had touched your family.

And if that’s not an appealing prospect, then stop letting others be responsible for doing something; stop bemoaning violence while you do nothing to stop it. Instead, take action. Give to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence or to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. But don’t think that money alone can win this fight. Money doesn’t vote (though it does buy legislators); you need to call your state legislators and your members of Congress. Don’t call once. Do it again and again and again until they start to get the message. Go to the town hall meetings that your legislators host and ask them the tough questions. Ask how many more children have to die before they’ll do something. Ask how much blood money they’ve accepted from the NRA. As if they’d feel different if it was their child that was murdered.

Talk to your friends, too. Sure, some may be gun rights advocates, but try to find common ground. Help them understand the issues. Every little bit of support, every little bit of change will help. Will it keep every child safe? Of course not. But we owe it to our children and to our society to try.

So, think about those families in Newtown (and Aurora and everywhere else that has been touched by gun violence) and then take a moment out of your holiday joy and festivities and try to be sure that next year you and your family won’t be grieving because gun violence touched close to home. Pick up the phone or your checkbook, whatever. Just do something.

And remember: 2014 is an election year. We have the power to make our country better, to make it reflect our wishes and values, and to do something to keep our children just a little bit safer. But nothing gets done unless we make it happen.

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