As I was driving away from my daughter's school today I was suddenly overcome with anxiety. Yesterday I saw this CNN blog post, "Support for stricter gun control fades" and was dismayed. Once again I thought to myself, "what can I do?" The general public has been lulled into a false sense of security because it's been a few months since we had what the general public considers to be a catastrophic episode.
As I drove away from where my daughter attends the 6th grade I started flashing on pictures from the media coverage of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Pictures of sheer panic and utter pain on the faces of anxious parents and relatives outside the school. Pictures of the children coming out of the school bewildered and scared. And I said to myself, "I absolutely have to do something." This could be my child, today or tomorrow. Don't I do everything I can, every day to protect my child? This is a very real threat - and what am I doing today?
All that I have managed to do so far is write a few emails to my elected officials in support of stricter gun control laws. I've defended my position on social media. I've signed petitions. I've grieved for the parents of shooting victims - in no way comparably to what they have actually experienced. I've thought to myself: "I'm so glad it wasn't me."
Today as I drove further and further from the school parking lot, crazy thoughts and images flying around in my head, I was scared for the safety of my child. Gun control advocates would roll their eyes if I tried to describe my fear to them. They would say my child had a greater chance of getting into a car accident on the way to school. This would not comfort me. The craziest thing is that it's not an irrational thought that my child might be the victim of a mass shooting today at her school. It's a horrifically possible scenario. Sure the "chances" are lower than a car accident, but does that matter to the parent of a dead child? Why does this problem persist, with no measurable progress in safeguards?! Why does my 11 year old have to take off her shoes in the airport as a precaution against terrorism but she is not afforded relevant similar precautions in her own school?
Well, we all know why. It's the powerful, well funded gun control lobby that blocks and sabotages every effort at precautions, right? We all shrug, helpless-like, in agreement. "What can the average American do against that big powerful group?" we ask ourselves and each other, rhetorically, and uselessly.
Here is what I think the average American can do to fight for the safety of our children: PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING HE OR SHE WANTS TO DO. And let me tell you - we gun control advocates WAY outnumber the other side. I know what the polls say about the percent of Americans favoring more gun control and the percent that does not. It seems to be about 50/50 most of the time - except right after something really horrific happens and then the percentage of people in support of more control goes up.
There are over 300 million people in the United States. Roughly 4 million of them are members of the NRA. That's like 1%. 70 million Americans claim to own a gun. That's abut 20% of Americans. I know many gun owners. A few of them get pretty heated when you say anything that even hints at blocking their total access to any kind of gun, anytime, anywhere for any reason. But most of them are reasonable people. People who would support laws to prevent more Sandy Hooks. People whose child could simply, easily be one of the next victims. Just like that. When they least expect it.
Here are a few things that the American people have done when they were mad enough or afraid enough or visionary enough to be moved to action:
1. The Declaration of Independence: In 1776 there were between 2 and 2.7 million Americans (not counting the native population) and as colonists, we formed the greatest country in the world when we fought off the yoke of the oppressive British. We were pissed off about, among other things, taxation without representation. Take that, you Tory Loyalists!
2. The Emancipation Proclamation: Abolitionists believed that all men actually were created equal and they fought to free over 4 million slaves, despite the the predictions of dire negative economic consequences. Now this was a challenge to overcome. Just imagine for one minute the strength, faith, resolve and courage it took to be a part of the Underground Railroad! This proclamation was followed by the 13th Amendment in 1865 and of course the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
3. The Woman's Suffrage Movement: Hundreds and hundreds of women got up and went out and petitioned and picketed and marched and got arrested, all for the right to vote. Talk about a lack of representation! Women were fed up and they did something about it.
4. The Moon Landing: We actually flew to the moon, landed on it and walked around. And then we flew back safely. We can do anything.
So, it's not the pro-gun groups that piss me off on this issue, it's the American people. A lot of people have to die before the average American can be jolted out of his or her fast-food, reality TV induced soporific stupor of indulgence. That sounds ugly and mean, I know. It's also a gigantic generalization. But I'm sorry, it's based in too much truth. And in all seriousness, I really do blame television. Go ahead and google "great things America has done," or "great feats in US history" and see what comes up. It's no coincidence that the most revolutionary things we've done since the majority of households in the US got televisions is to create more technology like the DVR and the iPad and robots. Things that allow us to be more and more sedentary. (And more and more obese.) Did you know that Americans spend as much as 40 hours a week watching TV?! Oh. My. God.
Today's revolutions are not happening because a vast majority of Americans can't get off the couch. Children are being killed.
This is not a Joyful Rant, I know. It's an appeal (and I am finally getting to the point). I propose that everyone who is even remotely interested in preventing more innocent people from being gunned down by someone with a gun spend just 30 minutes to an hour of TV-watching time each week researching this issue. Research it until you are moved to action. Read everything - look at all the facts, sides, views, statistics and opinions. But don't ever forget the victims. One is too many, but there are thousands. Do this knowing that your child or a child you care about could be next. Do it because we are the only ones who can change things.
If we did this, we could find a solution that works for everyone. We could do the right thing for the safety of our children. We freed ourselves from the British, fought against slavery, continue to fight discrimination and flew to the moon! We can figure this out.
If you read this (and granted not a lot of people read my blog, but I gotta start somewhere) and you are moved to any kind of action, please let me know. I plan to post in the comment section about my weekly research and my actions. On those days when I am overcome with fear and helplessness, when I think about my child, vulnerable, at school, maybe it will help, a little.