Admit the problem: Too many guns are available to anyone in the US

Admit the problem: Too many guns are available to anyone in the US
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Say their names. Look at their photos. The number of those taken from us by gun violence keeps rising. At first, we're shocked, then we grow numb to the staggering violence.

Now admit the problem. Too many guns are available to anyone in the United States. It’s not about a certain type of gun. It’s not about whether the gun can shoot one bullet or hundreds. It’s not about whether the person shooting the gun has cleared a background check or not.


It’s not about the 2nd Amendment.


After the politicians send their condolences and statements hoping for action, and the gun lobby reiterates their insensitive and moronic messaging that guns don’t kill, people do, what’s left for those affected by gun violence? What can every single person do to change the culture of everyday gun murders prevalent in America?

As a mother of a son murdered in his own home by two men using an illegal gun, I know how lives are forever devastated when gun violence enters your life.

No amount of counseling or support group therapies or activism changes that. And now, 12 years after his death, instead of being the only person I knew affected by gun violence, our neighborhoods and communities are killing fields. Our safest places, homes and schools, have become some of the deadliest places in our community, as more than 90 people are killed every day in the United States.

We know that our children, our families, our neighbors, our public servants are not safe. One of the students at Santa Fe High School in Texas affected by the shooting today spoke the truth. Paige Curry, a junior at the school, chillingly said she was not surprised that the mass shooting happened at her school as she has seen them happening everywhere.

Every gun violence prevention organization has a list of what must be done to reduce such violence. Everytown for Gun Safety reports statistics and policy decisions they believe will have the most positive impact, including comprehensive background checks, preventing concealed carry reciprocity, voting out lawmakers who have not committed to gun control, and more.

Giffords, the nonprofit started by gunshot victim and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), iterates similar measures as Everytown as reliable approaches to reducing gun violence.

The Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence presents a broad sweep approach to reducing gun violence, including policy change, cultural change, and tackling the NRA gun lobby head-on.

Now that Paige points out the inevitability of gun violence happening to anyone anywhere, what must every American do to stop the upward trajectory of increased deaths?

Communicate and advocate. Use social media, face-to-face gatherings, action development meetings, and lobby days to unite with others and create energy towards common sense gun laws. Knowing that there are now more than 4 million people joining the efforts through Everytown for Gun Safety helps us realize how important this movement is to many Americans.

Recognize the scope of the problem. It’s not only mass shootings that kill thousands every year. Guns are involved in suicide, domestic violence, homicide, and unintentional shootings – statistics are staggering. Educate yourself on reputable research that provides the reality of gun violence. Speak the truth.

Get political. While disagreement and inaction can be frustrating, giving up on the issue of safe communities disallows advancement towards laws and regulations that are proven to reduce death and injury. Call your politicians. Write your politicians about your expectations when it comes to elections. Join a march or rally or attend a state legislative lobby day. Vote.

Say their names. See their pain. Heed their voices. And now, commit to actions, along with millions and millions of others, to reduce access to guns, to not back down on demands for common sense gun laws proven to save lives. 

Joan Gilbert, whose son was killed by gun violence 12 years ago, is a retired K-12 science educator in Tucson and a public voices fellow with The OpEd Project.