Watching the horrifying gun violence of the past few weeks, many people are once again asking, “what can I do to help?” That sentiment is the reason why we will ultimately prevail in keeping our families, friends and neighbors safe from random gun violence: As much as gun-toting loners hiding under their beds in man-sized safes at the bottom of bunkers have tried to turn us into a nation of atomized individuals, the truth is that in times of crisis, we are still a community that shares common values and cares about each other.
In that spirit, and that of the season, I thought I would update a list I made a few years back, explaining what everyone and anyone can do to help end the scourge of gun violence in this country:
1) Say Hi to President Obama
President Obama has been a forceful advocate for measures to reduce gun violence since the terrible day three years ago that a mentally unhinged teenager walked into a school in Newtown, Conn., and massacred 20 young children and six of their teachers and administrators. Yet, a number of groups have made it clear that even though Congress refused to close a Holland-Tunnel-sized loophole that allows up to 40 percent of guns to be purchased without background checks, the president can redefine what constitutes “being in the business of selling guns.” This would ensure that anyone selling 25 or more guns in a year conducts background checks on their customers. You can get more details at Everytown for Gun Safety’s website. Then contact the White House, and let them know that you want and expect the president to do this, pronto.
2) Let Your Friends Know The Truth: We’re Winning
It can be very hard to turn on the TV or read the news when there is, according to some measures, an average of one mass shooting per day. There is no doubt: This is morally outrageous. But regulations on smoking and drunk driving — two similar public health risks — didn’t get put in place overnight. It took a long fight before the battle was won.
So you might be surprised to know that the NRA was stopped cold in between 90-95 percent of their legislation in the states this past year. An internal memo of theirs called it “a train wreck.” We have also succeeded with a number of ballot measures, from Washington State’s universal background checks to Cooky County, Illinois, banning assault weapons to the upcoming measures on ballots in Nevada, Maine and California. So while the death toll is still too high to bear, we are turning this around, and the NRA is now on the defensive. Hold your head up high, share this with your friends and keep fighting. We are going to win this thing.
3) Make Politicians Uncomfortable
Show up at rallies to decry politicians who refuse to vote for the universal background checks that 90 percent of us support. Bird dog them with cellphone cameras and ask them why they’d allow more children and police officers to die. Tweet at them. Leave comments on their Facebook pages. Call their offices in their home districts and in Washington, DC. Hold vigils outside their offices. There are all sorts of peaceful ways to put pressure on politicians.
If you live in Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina, or Wisconsin, for example, you have senators in your state up for reelection who are weak on gun control. You should contact these senators — Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte, Ron Johnson and Richard Burr — and ask why they’ve voted to let potential terrorists and criminals get their hands on all the guns their hearts desire. Ohio Democratic Primary for US Senate is important too: Newcomer P.G. Sittenfeld is passionate about gun safety, while his opponent, former Governor Ted Strickland, had an A+ rating from the NRA while in office and voted against every reasonable gun safety measure one can imagine.
4) Support Change!
In 2014, the people of Washington State were able to get around their bought-off legislators and pass some of the most comprehensive universal background checks via ballot initiative. This coming election cycle, Nevada and Maine will vote on similar measures. If you live there, VOTE! And organize your friends to do the same! If you don’t live in either state, send in a (however-large) donation you can afford, and contact all your friends and family in those states to let them know what they need to do. You can also participate in a phone bank supporting these measures from the comfort of your home.
5) Use Your Voice
You are consequential. You have a voice. You have book clubs, Facebook friends, bridge parties, work-out partners. Make sure everyone knows your feelings on this issue, and arm yourself with the facts for when you inevitably encounter those who have a strange form of separation anxiety if their gun is in another room.
Most importantly, if your kids are headed to play at someone’s house, ask them 1) if they have a gun, and, if they do, 2) whether it is securely locked away, with the ammunition separate from the weapon. Too many children die in accidents every month because parents neglect to do this. It may be an uncomfortable conversation, but think of the alternative.
Also, because money now equals speech (actually it doesn’t, but let’s play along with this inane Supreme Court decision for a second), you could, if you have the funds, give money to candidates promising to support reasonable restrictions, and groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety, Americans for Responsible Solutions, and yes, if I may, my own organization,Majority Ohio. Together, we can take on those who have blocked commonsense solutions to gun violence and get a Congress (and state legislatures) that will act in the interests of the public rather than the arms-dealer lobby.