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Think of someone you love. Imagine them now. Your child, grandchild, mom, dad, partner, spouse, brother or best friend. Where do they go to school, work or church? What is their name? What’s the last thing you said to them? Are there any family traditions, holidays, or life milestones that make you smile?
Now imagine you’re at work and a news alert goes off on your phone: a shooting at a mall near their home. It’s surreal to see a place you know written in black and white. The word “shoot” makes you numb.
You hold out your hand. One text, then another, no response. You call, no answer.
UVALDE FOURTH-GRADE STUDENT WHO SURVIVED SHOOTING TELLS STORY TO CONGRESS, FATHER SAYS SCHOOLS ‘NOT SAFE ANYMORE’
Another last-minute alert: several dead and injured. Panicked, you rush to the scene, then to the hospital. You encounter chaos. You notice that a jacket you bought them for their birthday is in a corner of the ER. He is bloody and cut in half. You come to the attention of a nurse and eventually learn that your loved one has suffered six gunshot wounds to the chest and one to the head while trying to protect others. They left. The doctor speaks, but you hear nothing. You think about how you saw them that morning, you couldn’t say goodbye to them. Nothing seems to matter, not trivial arguments or canceled plans. Certainly not politics.
Nearly a hundred families experience this heartbreaking reality on a daily basis. Maybe you are one of them. I’m writing this because I don’t want you to go through this nightmare no matter what your politics are. No one should. I am also writing this because, like you, I love this country and for it to work we need to balance responsibility with freedom. This is also what reasonable gun owners believe. I ask you to stand up and speak this truth.
When 17 of my classmates and teachers were murdered at my school in Parkland, Florida in 2018, a group of us desperately searched for answers. How could the adults have let this happen? In shock, we marched for our lives with a million other Americans of all stripes. There were countless reasons to give up in the years that followed. You know the names of the towns and the incidents they represent. This time the result must be different, and if it is, it will be thanks to responsible citizens.
You can both be part of the solution and protect our rights. Attitudes change for what seems like the first time. Gun owners, even former gun industry executives, are demanding action because tragedies like Uvalde do not reflect their values. I know there are millions of you who want to do the right thing. You are required to speak. Some of you have told me personally that it’s because you’re “tired of seeing children being slaughtered”, others want stricter laws and even a limitation of assault weapons because they think you have to “earn the right to own a gun”.
I don’t know what the exact answer is, but I know you should be at the table. Your voice matters. Your rights matter. Your decency matters. We have disagreed in the past, but we are not enemies. Our enemy is not a party or an organization, it is armed violence.
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If we can agree that killing children is wrong, then we must either prevent people who intend to kill from getting their hands on the weapons they are using, or stop their intention to kill in the first place. We can follow the model we used for cigarettes: address the pressures that make someone want them, then figure out how they get them. Gunmen are often radicalized and driven to kill because of racism and hatred, much like the Buffalo shooter. It’s not a mental illness. A long process happened that made him want to pick up a gun and kill. This is the case for all kinds of gun violence in this country. No law is perfect, but if we focus on stopping the process of radicalization leading to violence, we can halve the number of gun deaths over the next decade. And we must act now.
Let’s start by changing the conversation. So whoever you are, walk with us in one of over 450 walks across the country this Saturday. Gun owners, NRA members, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and people of all walks of life have had enough and it’s time for Congress to do something about it.
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I want to say unequivocally that I am not anti-gun. In fact, the movement I helped start has been pro-Second Amendment from day one. There’s so much we can disagree on, but there’s also so much we can agree on. The problem is that we don’t listen to each other long enough to find out. What we both can’t accept is the idea that we can’t do anything to stop the killing of children. We can. We all desperately want to protect our children. Let’s start there and find a middle ground to take action, because the next shooter is already preparing his attack.