Have we finally reached the tipping point that stops gun violence in America?
I sat down to write this 21 days after a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York; 20 days after a mass shooting in Laguna Woods, California; 11 days after a mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas; and one day after a mass shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In that same three-week timeframe there were 32 other mass shootings that you probably didn’t hear about.
As a mother and grandmother, I am horrified by this uniquely American epidemic of violence. I grieve for those killed and their families. I worry about my own seven grandbabies, but at a deeper level: I am mad as hell.
A daily reckoning of the violence
In this country, we are averaging more than one mass shooting a day in 2022. Every day, 120 people die and another 200 are wounded by gun violence. This is our exceptionalism as a nation: repeated gun violence that too many of our leaders choose to do nothing about. This unending stream of shootings can lead to hopelessness, apathy and the fear that nothing can be done, so we needn’t try.
It is so important to dig deeper and not to succumb to this way of thinking. Why? Because it is simply not true. There are actions that each of us can take that will make a difference. It is time to act. It is essential that we not just stay the course, but up our game.
These are the actions that have sustained me as I work with other members of Grandmothers Against Gun Violence to create a country where our children and grandchildren need not live with the daily fear of being injured or killed by gunfire. Most other countries around the world have avoided this epidemic. It’s time for our country to join them.
Support yourself and those you love
- Take care of yourself. Breathe. Feel. Grieve. Turn off the television. Hug those you love. Take time to appreciate the gifts of your life.
- Do you know someone personally affected by gun violence? Reach out to them with a call, note, email or hug to let them know you care. Don’t ask for anything in return. Just beam love. Remember, new trauma triggers old trauma.
- Decide if you want to discuss gun violence with your children. Listen. Let them know you love them and will do your best to keep them safe. Don’t overdo it. Be present. Seek advice. These articles might help: The New York Times’ “How to Talk to Children About School Shootings” and “How to Talk to Kids About Gun Violence” from parent.com
- If you or anyone you know needs emotional support due to gun violence, contact the SAMHSA Distress Helpline, which offers crisis support service for any American experiencing emotional distress, at 1-800-985-5990. You can also text the Public Distress Helpline by texting “TalkWithUs” to 66746. Also useful is “Resources for Victims and Survivors of Gun Violence” at everytownsupportfund.org
- The Ana Grace Project was launched by Ana’s parents in response to the tragedy that took her life in Sandy Hook, CT in December 2012. The project believes “love wins,” and is dedicated to promoting love, community and connection for every child and family. Daily uplifting messages can be found at The Ana Grace Project | Facebook
- Ground yourself in love and the hope for a safer nation.
Educate yourself about gun violence prevention and policies
There are many smart, dedicated people who have spent a lot of time studying gun violence prevention. There are policies that work. Choose one of these organizations and dive in!
- Alliance for Gun Responsibility was founded here in Washington State in 2013 and promotes a culture of gun ownership that balances rights with responsibilities. The organization advocates for innovative policy and changes in laws and provides community education to reduce gun violence.
- Grandmothers Against Gun Violence was launched in Seattle by four grandmothers following the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook. The organization is committed to ending gun violence through advocacy, education and research.
- Everytown.org advocates for legislation that includes more thorough background checks and mandates for safer gun storage, while opposing ideas like arming teachers. Moms Demand Action is affiliated with Everytown and has local chapters in every state, including here in Seattle. You can join by texting READY to 644-33 or via the national website.
- Giffords.org mobilizes voters, pushes for legislative change and helps draft, implement, and defend laws and programs designed to prevent gun violence.
- BradeyUnited.org lays out a 12-step plan to prevent gun violence at the state and federal levels.
Speak out and advocate for responsible gun policies
The National Rifle Association spends millions to influence laws and protect the gun industry. In the past decade, Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) organizations have worked to loosen that grip, with significant success here in Washington. There is now a gun responsibility majority in our state legislature and numerous GVP and community safety bills have been passed. This success is largely due to the work of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, aided by Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action and other local partners.
I have grown the most by acting through advocacy. As a new grandmother in 2014, I joined Grandmothers Against Gun Violence because one of my best friends was its founder. I was completely ignorant of the gun violence prevention movement. I didn’t know any of the “players,” had never been politically active and didn’t even know who my state senator or representatives were.
I was certainly too insecure and tongue-tied to speak up for sensible gun legislation. Through my participation in these and other advocacy groups, my knowledge and confidence have grown tremendously over the last eight years. I’ve attended programs and marches, collected signatures for citizen-backed initiatives and joined phone banks to call voters. I’ve given talks to community groups and spoken at rallies. Most importantly, I have called and met with my legislative representatives and testified in support of sensible gun laws in Olympia. This work has led to victories here in Washington.
By joining and volunteering for organizations committed to sane gun policies, I have been given the tools, courage and support I need to make this grandmother’s voice heard. Moms Demand Action has done the same for many mothers and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility has empowered Washington State voters of all ages.
In advocacy, we are showing our children and grandchildren what active citizenship is, and that is both a great gift and a necessary tool for change.
For more on gun violence and what you can do, check out: