Earlier this month, when Bob Costas had the temerity to suggest that easy-access to guns might have contributed to the violent shooting by Kansas City Chiefs linemen Jovan Belcher, a furor ensued. How dare he politicize a tragedy? Sunday Night football halftime isn't the time to discuss gun control, critics shouted. I don't happen to agree, of course. I think we are long-overdue for a discussion about guns and violence in our nation. But I had resigned myself to the fact that changes were unlikely. Now I'm ashamed. If people like me don't demand change, who will?
Less then two weeks later, 26 people, 20 of them school children, are dead at a school in Connecticut. When mass shootings happen, I think about the victims and their families. As a teacher and a mother, this time around, I'm overwhelmed. Tears and hand-wringing are not enough. How do we absorb and move on from a tragedy like this? I lay in bed last night, sure in the knowledge that my own son was safe for the evening, and feeling acute misery for the parents who don't get to make that assumption any more. What has gone wrong in our nation?
This morning, I'm not just filled with sadness about the tragedy. Now I'm red-hot mad. As news of the Connecticut shooting filled my e-mail and consumed the headline of the NY Times yesterday afternoon, I sat in a class with a room full of 17 year olds taking a test. As they quietly filled pages with their thoughts and ideas and, dare I say, their brilliance, I was ashamed of the world we are handing them.
It is time to take action. If it were up to me, we'd amend the Constitution to change the second amendment: Individuals don't need to own weapons and we should collect them all. I would permit hunters to keep their rifles at established hunt clubs where gun safety is the rule of order. It's not up to me, of course. But these problems aren't going away and we can certainly agree on some real changes in our laws and our policies.
1. Rigorous gun registration laws, longer purchase waiting periods, and detailed background checks in every state, at every venue, including private gun sales and gun shows.
2. An end to private ownership of certain types of guns: no assault weapons, no semi-automatic weapons. None.
3. If we decide we will continue to permit private ownership of guns, then let's require gun owners to attend gun safety classes and regularly certify that their guns are being safely stored.
4. Ban internet and by-mail sale of ammunition. Limit ammo sales at gun shops; regulate the kinds of ammunition available for purchase and set a fixed limit on those purchases.
5. Let's agree that we need quality mental health help more readily available in this nation. Let's remove the stigma from getting help, and let's commit to our community obligations on this front. This will require money and resources and yes, we can afford both, largely because the alternative has cost far too many lives.
Tell your members of Congress they must act now. Don't know who your Senators and Representatives are? Find out here. Check Open Secrets to see if those members received campaign funds from the NRA in 2012. Join the Brady Campaign's "We are better than this movement" and combat the power of the NRA.
Make this issue your priority. Go to a rally. Vote only for officials who will take action. Tell President Obama that he has your support for changes to our laws. He said yesterday that, "these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics." I agree. For the love of God and our children, let's make sure that we mean it.