“It is with heavy hearts that we report that (XX number of) (students/faculty) have been shot and killed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the community of (fill in the blank).”
Now cue the gun lobby: “It’s too soon to discuss guns in the wake of (fill in the blank) mass shooting. To do so only politicizes these tragedies.”
Then come the rote media questions: “Could laws have prevented this tragedy from happening?” And, “Why haven’t we seen any action since Sandy Hook?”
You know the drill. Given that there’s nearly one school shooting every single week in America, we all know it by heart.
But this isn’t a drill. These are real lives being sacrificed to our nation’s lax gun laws and real families and communities affected by and left to deal with the aftermath.
It should alarm us that any time someone asks, “Did you hear about the school shooting?” we have to ask, “Which one?”
As a mother with three children in college and one in high school, I am constantly on alert for campus and school shootings – and it’s not paranoia: The mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, was the 142nd school shooting since Sandy Hook and the 45th school shooting in 2015.
Many of these shootings don’t show up in the headlines. But guns are going off inside school buildings or on school or campus grounds with disturbing frequency – once a week, on average.
And despite the pleas of the gun lobby and some lawmakers to hold off on any conversation about solutions to strengthen gun laws in the wake of preventable shooting tragedies, mothers across the country will never be silent again. Not after the shooting of 20 innocent first-graders in the sanctity of their classroom in Newtown, Connecticut.
We refuse to let school shootings become an acceptable reality, and we will stop at nothing until our political leaders in Congress and in statehouses across the country stop asking students and teachers to stand up to gunmen so they don’t have to stand up to the gun lobby.
The rhetoric that nothing can be done is tired and wrong and pathetic. Obviously no one law will prevent every episode of gun violence, but we have a moral imperative to do more to protect our children from weak gun laws. And we will not let our children fall prey to gun laws dictated by the gun lobby that works toward putting more guns in more places with no questions asked. We must act to stop this carnage.
While thoughts and prayers are needed and healing, the thoughts and prayers being offered in statements and on social media by pundits and lawmakers are not enough to stop the text messages that say, “Mom, active shooter. Love you.”
To drive real change on this issue, Americans must act, and we must act NOW. We must do more than posting about a shooting on social media. We must do more than say nothing will change or that stronger laws won’t work.
Very simply, we must refuse to become numb to the gun violence that kills 88 Americans every single day and injures hundreds more. We must become educated about our state and federal gun laws. We must ask our elected officials, who are supposed to represent us, where they stand on guns. And we must hold them accountable for supporting stronger laws.
Having founded Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America almost three years ago, I can tell you first-hand that since then, things are changing. Moms are fighting for sensible gun laws and policies, and we are winning. In the last three years, we’ve helped close background check loopholes in more than six states. We’ve pushed nearly a dozen states – red and blue – to pass laws that will help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. And we’ve influenced major restaurants and retailers – like Starbucks, Chipotle and Target – to adopt sensible gun policies to keep customers safe.
We’re building consensus in the states and sending a strong message to elected officials that they’d better act according to the wishes of the majority of Americans, or fear the ballot box, because we will remember in November.
Americans should be able to live their lives free from gun violence – especially at school, where we send our kids off to learn and grow, not to risk their lives. We won’t have to live with bulletproof backpacks and lockdown drills and news headlines with the phrase “School Shooting” in them if we keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people to begin with.
Shannon Watts is the mother of five children and the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown for Gun Safety.