The fear of gun violence is an ever-present reality to parents, kids, teachers, neighbors, passers-by in America. But our politicians are not discussing it in any serious manner – even during the presidential campaign. It is time to change that.
SHORELINE — Last May, when I had just finished a meeting at work, I received a text message from a friend saying that there had been a shooting in Shoreline the previous evening, and two youths had been shot. One of them, a 17 year old girl, had died.
She was a student in my daughter’s high school at Shorecrest.
The shooting had taken place on the same street on which my daughter’s Metro bus travels from school to home every day. At that moment the police had no suspect or motive – it looked like a random act of violence.
I was petrified.
I texted my daughter, “DO NOT TAKE THE BUS” home after school, and that I would pick her up. I left work early with an uneasy feeling in my stomach: something terrible had just happened and my life was directly affected by it. I could not control the events in my neighborhood, and I could not protect my daughter from the reality of gun violence and death.
Twelve years ago I participated in the first Million Mom March on Mothers’ Day in Seattle. My daughter was just a toddler, and I was concerned about her growing up in fear of gun violence and a sense of insecurity. The Columbine school shooting was still fresh on my mind. Since that first march, there have been an estimated 872,247 deaths or injuries caused by firearms in the United States, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Million Mom March has united forces with the Brady Campaign, and together they have made some modest gains in preventing access to guns, but neither political party has made a serious attempt to enact gun control.
During the presidential election season, I would like to posit a few serious questions regarding the view of candidates — for any level of office — on gun control, and their interpretations of the Second Amendment. Do candidates care about decreasing gun violence in America? Are they going to address the easy access to weapons that are meant to kill many in an instant? Will any ask questions about gun laws and violence prevention?
After the first two presidential debates I am pessimistic about getting any of these questions answered. It appears that gun control is taboo and cannot be discussed in an adult-like manner with either Republicans or Democrats. If we don’t talk about it in the public forum, it doesn’t exist, right?
Stephen Barton is trying to change that.
He survived the recent, horrific shooting incident in a Colorado movie theater. He made a TV ad, Demand a Plan, which was aired during the first presidential debate. Barton, who considers himself “lucky,” tries to draw attention to the horrific consequences of gun violence. In his own words: “At some point we have to demand a certain level of courage and independence among politicians. At some point you just have to expect more, even in an election season… It’s really just a very basic request that both candidates start talking about this, that they take the situation seriously.”
Gun advocates like to say that guns don’t kill people, people do. Cars don’t kill people either, drivers in cars do. Cars are big and powerful, and made of metal. They are not intended to be driven haphazardly. That’s why we have created a sensible set of rules about how to drive cars and who can drive them, and what people must do to obtain a license to drive them. We even require people to have insurance before they can drive cars. These rules give us a sense of safety on the road. We follow them because it makes sense. And because we know we must.
It’s time we had a conversation about gun control. I’ll be tuning into the next two presidential debates, waiting.