MY FRIENDS, we have NOT accepted gun violence.
I’ve wanted to write about this since Wednesday when I saw the same old tweet by Dan Hodges getting trotted out:
“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by people who were horrified and demoralized by the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. It is easy to conclude that we as a society have accepted gun violence and mass shootings.
First, the majority of Americans favor measures that experts say would reduce gun violence. That data doesn’t back a conclusion that society has accepted gun violence.
Second, while measures at a federal level have been stymied by Republicans, on the state level, progress is being made. Since Sandy Hook, “there have been 210 laws enacted to strengthen gun safety, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.”
Does that sound like no progress?
Often when I talk about state gun laws, people point out that guns can travel from state to state so only federal laws will solve our problems. While I would prefer our federal government do something—really anything—to address gun violence, I’m encouraged by studies that show that state gun laws decrease gun violence.
This means that we don’t have to wait for the federal government to act. We can make our local communities safer now and lead the way.
In that regard, I’ve been optimistic about our progress. Oregon has a ways to catch up with California’s gun laws, but we’re steadily changing things. Off the top of my head, we’ve passed expanded background check and extreme risk protection order.
Last week, the Oregon House passed HB4145 which bans domestic abusers and stalkers from owning guns. It faces a steeper challenge in the Oregon Senate so you can make an impact right now by calling your Senator.
Third, the NRA is not the all powerful force that it is perceived to be. After Oregon passed expanded background checks, the NRA went hard after Oregon politicians that had supported the bill. I remember hearing from Representative Val Hoyle about the NRA targeting her and the fact that she won reelection despite that fact.
In 2016, pro gun control groups outspent the NRA in Oregon according to research by KATU. “In 2017 in Virginia, pro gun control Democrats won 12 of 13 races against NRA-backed Republicans.”
I’m not saying the NRA doesn’t have an outsized influence—particularly at the federal level. But I am saying that we can beat them.
Fourth, opinions are changing and people are being spurred to action. On Saturday, a prominent Republican donor said he won’t give any more money to the GOP until it addresses assault weapons.
Sandy Hook spurred me to action. I wasn’t deeply involved in the cause before Sandy Hook. I read an article today that mentioned that Shannon Watts, who founded Moms Demand Action, wasn’t involved before Sandy Hook.
We weren’t having this discussion six years ago. We’re what has changed and our actions are what will make our communities safer.
Fifth, change takes time. All the reaction to Sandy Hook taught us was that we couldn’t rest on our laurels and assume that our country would make the right decision without requiring us to fight for it. Our story isn’t the Australian gun control story no matter how much we wish it was.
It was 46 years between the Stonewall Riots and the Supreme Court ruling for same sex marriage. It was 11 years between Emmett Till’s lynching and the Civil Rights act. What would our country look like today if the people fighting for civil rights had said after Emmett Till’s death society had accepted that it was ok to kill black kids instead of being motivated even more to fight for what is right.
We often make analogies between car and gun ownership. How you don’t need a license or training for a gun, but you do for a car.
Here’s the thing, cars didn’t become safer over night. It was years of incremental improvement by manufacturers combined with laws and regulations that have saved more than 300,000 lives over the last 40 years.
Finally, listen to the students from Parkland. IF YOU DO NOTHING ELSE, watch this speech by Emma Gonzalez:
They aren’t putting up with the way things are. “So far, Parkland is *not* fading from the news the way that mass shootings usually do… The students speaking out makes a pretty big difference.”
They are planning a March for Our Lives on March 24th. We need to make that march as big as possible.
They represent the future our this movement and our country. Follow their lead.
So no, WE haven’t accepted gun violence. Have YOU accepted gun violence?
The students from Parkland; from Reynolds High School; from Umpqua Community College; from the Clackamas Town Center; from Sandy Hook—they are all looking to us to make America safer. They’re looking for you to take action.
So march on March 24th. Call your representatives. Donate time or money to Everytown, Moms Demand Action and Ceasefire Oregon.
Don’t accept gun violence. Do something about it.