Do you remember where you were when you heard about Sandy Hook? Do you remember how long it took you before you got to hug your kids that day? Do you remember as the details trickled in, that sinking feeling in your stomach as you realized twenty babies had been gunned down in their classroom before they could finish the pledge of allegiance?
For three days in December I mourned the loss of children I never knew. I cried for them. For their parents. For their siblings. For the educators who made the ultimate sacrifice. For the lost innocence of an entire town. For the world I’m raising my daughter in. On the fourth day, I became outraged. Outraged that our parents and grand parents and great grand parents had let things get this way. Outraged that our generation has thus far been compliant in their failures. And then the holidays came around and my own child was home from school and all that outrage somehow ended up on the back burner.
Last month, as I struggled to wrap my head around the massacre at Sandy Hook and how we could do better to protect our children, I spoke with my friend Mindy; the San Francisco Coordinator for the Brady Center To Prevent Gun Violence (who herself was wounded in a mass shooting when we were in High School) about what Congress needed to do first and foremost to combat gun-related deaths, and what we could do as concerned citizens to support that agenda. Here’s what she told me:
The first three things that need to be addressed are universal background checks, banning high capacity magazines and the assault weapons ban being rewritten and reinstated with clear measures in place.
[To show your support] I suggest signing up on demandaplan.org and wearebetterthanthis.org and get involved with your local chapters who will get you to reach out to your local elected officials and let them know you believe strongly in common sense gun legislation.
In the wake of Sandy Hook, President Obama put together a task force, headed by Vice President Biden, to research ways to combat gun violence. This week, as you may know, the President introduced new gun control measures based on the first of those findings.
In addition to signing 23 executive actions designed to reduce gun violence [which do not require congressional approval] and asking Congress to confirm a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, (there has been only an “acting director” for the past six years) the President called on Congress to do the following:
- Establish universal background checks for anyone looking to purchase a gun [currently 40% of legal gun purchases in the US are done without background checks]
- Ban military-style assault weapons, and place a 10-round cap on gun magazines
I was elated! Finally! Safer streets! But experts are saying that the President has his work cut out for him in attempting to push such long-fought legislation through an NRA-controlled congress. That’s where we the people come in. Lobbyists and Super PACs may pay for our representatives campaign stops and TV ads, but we punch the ballots. And each one of us has a voice. And probably a phone.
Call your members of Congress, give them your name and let them know that you are constituent and you support the President’s plan for action on guns. If you own a gun or are a member of the NRA, let the person taking your message know that as well. If you don’t know who to call, you can click here and enter your zip code to find out who your reps are. Ask your friends both locally and in other districts to do the same. And like Mindy said, if you want to get further involved, you can register with demandaplan.org and wearebetterthanthis.org who can guide you.
It’s easy for life to get in the way of the issues that move us. I know over the past few weeks mine has. Holidays, and family, and school, and ballet class, and work, and travel, and all of those things keep us busy enough that we couldn’t even begin to think about adding another log to our fire.
Organizing marches takes time, and social action groups require commitment, and for a lot of us those things are stretched thin as it is. But a phone call just takes a few minutes, and if enough of us take the time to do it, it can make all the difference in the world. So take five minutes. Right now. And pick up the phone.