By Shira Goodman
It’s been one year since the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Although there has been some progress in our fight to make America safer – it’s not been enough, and it’s been too slow in coming.
The young people at the front of the marches and blowing up Twitter rightly are asking what’s taking so long.
They are tired of our explanations, our patience, our willingness to keep pushing until the wall moves a little bit. They are ready for us to demand more, do more, break down those walls.
Part of the problem is that we have been framing our gun violence problem as a debate, a legitimate argument between two sides.
This has been a mistake, because there are not two sides. There is just a growing crisis: we lose almost 100 lives every day to guns. And almost 275 people are shot and injured. This is an emergency. There is no legitimate argument that can claim this is acceptable.
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The only real choice is to identify the problem and work to be part of the solution.
We’ve cured diseases, sent men to the moon, created computers we can hold in the palm of our hand, and have self-driving cars. We are all about solving tough problems. In fact, that’s pretty much the job description for elected officials. So when we expect them to address our gun violence crisis it is certainly not asking too much. In reality, for too long, we’ve been asking far too little. We’ve let them get away with doing nothing. And that’s what they’ve counted on.
Last year, we celebrated Pennsylvania’s passage of the first meaningful gun legislation in a decade – Act 79, the bill that disarms domestic abusers. And just last week, the U.S. House of Representatives held its first hearing on a gun bill in eight years.
Both of those events were met with great fanfare. And they did represent important achievements.
But that’s because we’ve set our expectations too low. Passing one bill in a decade is not nearly enough. And taking guns away from domestic abusers, who were already barred from buying guns, should not have even been debatable. The fact that 62 Representatives and five Senators voted against this should be shocking – those votes should be disqualifying.
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We must demand and expect real, meaningful reform. We can’t afford to wait 8 years for hearings and votes. We can’t afford to wait 8 months, or even 8 weeks.
The facts are clear: In every case where someone is shot, someone who shouldn’t have had a gun had one. We know that in states with stronger gun laws and fewer guns, there are fewer gun deaths. We know how to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.
We know how to make guns and gun owners and gun use safer. Our failure to do so is a choice. It is a choice to sacrifice close to 40,000 lives a year. Letting our elected officials continue to make this choice for us is unacceptable.
Our young people have no doubt about this.
And we must be clear as well. When we are told, as we inevitably will be, that solving gun violence is complicated or difficult, we need to realize that the person telling us that is really saying the problem is not worth their time and effort. And anyone who tells us that surely does not deserve to be sitting in a seat reserved for problem solvers.
Shira Goodman is the executive director of CeaseFirePA, Pennsylvania’s gun violence prevention organization. Visit them on the web at www.ceasefirepa.org. She writes from Philadelphia.