May 23 2016 04:50 PM

Advocacy group strives to close loopholes, support limits

Nza-Ari Khepra / Everytown for Gun Safety
Photo courtesy of PopTech / Flickr

Like the safety tip that should have been on the toy gun 12-year-old Tamir Rice was holding when he was shot by a Cleveland police officer in 2014, orange is the color to display this coming June 2. To honor National Gun Violence Awareness Day, the San Diego chapter of Moms Demand Action will don orange t-shirts and gather at 6:30 p.m. at downtown's Embarcadero Marina Park for a rally.

With a murder rate 25 times that of other developed countries, America is definitely exceptional. We must be the best at everything, everywhere, and when it comes to gun violence, we've outdone ourselves. Already in 2016, there have been 19,712 incidents of gun violence and that number just keeps on ticking upward with each paragraph I write.

Everytown For Gun Safety collates data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and keeps detailed records of the realities of our gun culture. Even as crime rates across the country have been on the decline, the number of annual gun murders—roughly 12,000—has remained unchanged. Nearly 20,000 people commit suicide using a gun each year. Approximately 91 people are killed by guns in America each day. In an average month, 51 women are shot to death by a former husband or boyfriend. On an average day, seven children are killed by guns in America.

It is this last statistic—or the 2012 gun massacre of 20 children in Connecticut that contributed to it—that led one woman in Indiana to do what few of our elected officials seem to be interested in doing.

Shannon Watts took a public stand for policy change and the result was Moms Demand Action. Having merged with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the organization is not aiming to eradicate the 2nd Amendment, but is working to expand background checks and remove from office any elected officials who continue to placate the NRA. Oh, those crazy moms and their lofty ideas.

This is, of course, a never-ending effort. Like other social movements, this one can be dreadfully demoralizing at times with no finish line where folks can share a celebratory drink, disband and go home to relax on the couch for the rest of time.

We can barely talk about the issue in this country, given the dominance of the gun lobby and the fear they cut into the hearts of weakling legislators. If 19 white children's shattered body parts scattered across the campus of their elementary school doesn't force policy change—well, then. Progress is going to require generations of activist endurance.

Like religion and politics, gun rights and gun violence are taboo topics for polite conversation. As it happens, I'm not really known for polite conversation. And, too, I'm fine with being viewed as the crazy mom on just about any issue, and this is never more true than when it comes to dropping my kid at a play date or a sleep over.

Though I'm often viewed as the freak helicopter parent when I do it, you better believe I ask whether there is a gun in any home where my child will be chillin'. It has been an awkward conversation at times, but a lot less awkward than oh, I donít know...if my kid is dead from an accidental gunshot. So, yeah, I'm the mom who looks straight down the barrel, if you will, not unlike the littles in a 2014 20/20 report on children and guns education.

According to the program, approximately 1.7 million U.S. children live in a home with an unlocked and loaded firearm. Gun safety is a public health crisis. And who better to help with this than Dr. NRA?

Diane Sawyer and company showed a group of young school children learning about gun safety through an NRA-produced educational video featuring their mascot, Eddie Eagle. To be sure, this is an affront to educational videos and eagles everywhere. (So priceless is Samantha Bee's recent quest to obtain an Eddie Eagle costume. Google it. You're welcome.) Did I mention that Eddie Eagle raps in the video? Mmmm, it's true. And that's an affront to rappers everywhere. Even to Iggy Azalea. So there's your barometer.

But back to the 20/20 story.

A few days after Eddie Eagle "taught" the kids all about what to do if they happen upon a gun—Stop! Don't touch! Leave the aaair-EE-ah! Tell an adULT! (Phife Dawg has got to be dying all over again at that abomination)—and after they'd sung that with their teacher and learned the choreography (apologies to choreography everywhere), the children were sent to a playroom outfitted with hidden cameras and barely hidden unloaded guns.

I don't really need to tell you what happened when the kiddos found the guns; about the boy who waved and pointed one at a friend's head, or the boy who pointed one directly at his nose and looked down the barrel. I only need to tell you the despair and horror on the faces of these kids' moms as they watched their babies interacting with guns.

Moms Demand Action isn't just for moms, of course. It is for anyone who supports the effort to close loopholes in our background check system, promote real gun safety and education, support limits on concealed carry and create enforceable laws that address gun trafficking and fraudulent purchasing.

In a Utopian world with a finish line, the NRA no longer dictates our path. Orange represents big victories in policy, and the reduction in exceptionally violent American violence.


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