Gun control advocates hope Steve Kerr’s call for action inspires change
Leaders of gun control advocacy groups say Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr’s call for lawmakers to act on gun legislation currently stalled in Congress have resonated with many Americans who are upset over inaction on the issue — and express hope that the comments could help spark change.
Kerr spoke about his frustration at a news conference before Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Finals Tuesday, referencing several recent mass shootings, including the Texas elementary school shooting earlier that day that killed 19 children and two teachers.
“When are we gonna do something?” Kerr yelled, slamming his hand on the table.
“I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. … I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough,” he said.
Robyn Thomas, the executive director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said people often dismiss statements from politicians because they feel they have political agendas and take donations from various groups. She said more powerful statements come when people “from all walks of life” publicly question when the gun violence will stop.
“I think that does really raise the issue to a lot of Americans who aren’t as engaged in the topic, aren’t maybe even listening to the politicians, but they’re into basketball,” Thomas said. “There’s something about having someone they respect speaking out and helping people feel more empowered themselves.”
She noted that players have gone public advocating for gun reform alongside Kerr. Point guard Steph Curry said Tuesday in response to Kerr’s comments that he accepts the responsibility of using his voice to help make change. The Warriors as a team also made a statement Thursday before their following game endorsing steps to pass legislation on the issue, and the announcer at that game shared resources where attendees could learn about how to “support sensible gun laws in America.”
This is not the first time Kerr has spoken out about gun violence. He has a personal connection to the issue: His father was shot and killed in the 1980s while serving as the president of American University of Beirut. Kerr mentioned his struggle with losing his father in 2018 after a gunman killed 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., The Washington Post reported.
“I want every person here, every person listening to this, to think about your own child or grandchild, mother or father, sister, brother. How would you feel if this happened to you today?” Kerr said this week.
Igor Volsky, the executive director of Guns Down America, said the emotion behind the coach’s comments should be directed at those in positions of power who support “sensible” gun reform and can make change.
Kerr pointed to the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would close existing loopholes that permit some gun sales to occur without a background check. The House passed the bill last year, but it has stalled in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has started the process to put the bill on the Senate’s schedule, but at least 10 Republicans would need to vote in favor of advancing it to overcome a filibuster. Senate Republicans have overwhelmingly stood in opposition to measures to increase gun regulations, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has said he believes the bill is too far-reaching and has pushed for a narrower plan.
“The words of Kerr and other influential apolitical people in American society would go a long way toward helping us make progress, but we got to make sure that we are pushing the right people at the right time,” Volsky said.
Michael McBride, the executive director of LIVE FREE, a national organization that works to reduce gun violence and mass incarceration, said he hopes Kerr’s comments “activate” Americans who have largely stood on the sidelines of the issue and become “numb” to incidents of gun violence.
McBride said the families who have lost someone to gun violence do not move on and instead just learn how to live without them. He said Kerr’s platform, coupled with his personal experience losing his father, makes him a particularly compelling speaker.
McBride said some political actors have made some members of the public feel that gun violence is inevitable, but speakers like Kerr can raise the profile of organizations working to prove it is not.
“Sometimes many of us organizers, we feel the burden of speaking out and wonder if we’re speaking into an abyss,” McBride said. “I hope his words land in places that can yield the fruit of activism and change.”
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