There are days that are seared into our communal memory. The day JFK was shot. September 11, 2001. But horrifically now our collective memories mark anniversaries of mass shootings. We add them to the calendars in our minds and struggle to get past them.
June 14 is the six-month anniversary of Newtown. April 16 was the six-year anniversary of Virginia Tech. July 20 will be the one-year anniversary of Aurora. January 8 was the second year anniversary of Tucson. Each new day brings 30 new tragedies to mark. It is time now to end this scourge of senseless violence. Congress must act now to end gun violence. And we as citizens must act to push Congress to pass gun violence prevention laws.
Newtown should have been the catalyst that energized all of America. For me, it was. I remember hearing of Newtown as I was going to lunch. The heart wrenching tragedy of it was not immediately known. Hours later, as I saw the children filing from school in fear and heard of the shootings, I thought back to sending my two daughters to school. Each morning and afternoon my greatest concern was putting them on and watching them get off the school bus. In my most vivid nightmares I never could have dreamed of fearing for their lives in school. As a parent and grandparent, it is a scenario that ripped through me and made me vow that I will work to convince Congress that the First Amendment rights of life and liberty are just as sacred as the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
For the Second Amendment absolutist, it does not matter if most Americans have the right to feel safe in malls and theaters and want children to be safe in schools; only the gun matters. There is an almost irrational belief that they must tote a gun to protect themselves or their family. Think of all the additional deaths and injuries in any of the mass shootings if bystanders were also firing guns indiscriminately in response to a shooter. Gun rights advocates also paint a picture of a woman, huddling in a closet with five children, who will grab her gun and shoot her way to safety. Sadly, guns in the hands of the innocent have too often been turned against them. These absolutists rail against background checks, which might prevent the mentally ill or criminals from having guns, as an infringement on their rights.
It would appear that government intrusion applies only to guns. Most people submit to background checks for employment or mortgages. Most people even submit to giving airlines their personal information and going through scanners that reveal all. Background checks are used in every area of our daily lives. Adding them to private sales is not an invasion but merely a way to make sure guns do not fall easily into the wrong hands. Approximately 40% of guns are exchanged with no background checks. Would you feel safe going on airplanes if 40% of the people did not have to go through the metal detector? Substitute the word "TSA" for "gun" -- do you think Congress would decide that going through airport security was taking away someone’s rights?
The most basic right is for Americans to walk freely and without fear. That has been denied us by Congressional obstruction, unthinking obedience to the "powerful" gun lobby, and refusal to listen to the voices of millions of Americans who support sensible gun violence prevention laws. But Congress is discovering we have power, too, and we are not afraid to use it.
As we near the six-month anniversary of Newtown, our voices are getting louder. Our numbers are growing. We are mobilizing on email, Facebook, and Twitter. We are having stroller jams, calling Congress, visiting our legislators in states and on the Hill. We will vote. We will support those who advocate for gun violence prevention. We will not accept the status quo and sit by while more children are shot, while more people are killed as they go about their everyday lives, as the "rights" of the gun supersede the rights of the American people.
As the immediate past president of the Joint Action Committee (JAC), I know that Congress does hear and listen to our voices. We can be effective advocates when we are willing to dedicate our time, voices and energy. This time we cannot forget. We cannot let the issue fade into the next big media event. We cannot let the fight for our children's future fail - we cannot be discouraged or give up. Relentlessly, we have to raise our voices, work together and succeed.