Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Category: Brady Campaign

Meeting a Hero

Having lost my wife last month and my father in November of last year, I know the awkwardness caring people bring with them when they want to express their condolences. Both my wife and my father died of cancer, an insidious, destructive disease that kills from the inside out. But what do you say to someone who has had a loved one taken from them violently? We anthropomorphize cancer and speak of the “battle” waged against a nefarious foe. But what “battle” can we speak of having been waged against an instantaneous, violent death? It is simply chaos from the cosmos, dropped upon the heads of those who survive. In some cases, it is the Damocles sword of gun violence befalling someone dear to us without warning.

So it will be with my meeting Sandy and Lonnie Phillips tomorrow at a meeting of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. As none of you will remember, my very first blog post was simply a reposting of their daughter Jessi’s blog about having just missed a mass shooting at a mall in Toronto on June 2, 2012. She was murdered 48 days later at the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012.

In fact, despite continuing to write about it on my little blog, it wasn’t until the murder of twenty schoolchildren and 6 of their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School that I was forced to act. It was while listening to a conference call of the Brady Campaign on January 7, 2013, that I heard Jessi’s heartbreaking story told by Sandy Phillips. The next week I was speaking out at Democratic clubs around Houston of the need for action to quell the violence guns were having on American society.

I consider my need to act an outpouring of love for my children. No longer could I look them in the eye and deplore gun violence without taking a stand and working to affect change. Whatever effect I might have (however small), had to be done for my children and their future. However, I attribute any courage I had to speak out publicly to Jessi, Sandy, and the parents and family members of those who were killed at Sandy Hook. But especially Sandy. Because while I had a hard time imagining me ever getting out of bed again should something so horrible befall my children, Sandy was out there speaking and acting, every day, despite the pain of her loss. And I know that change cannot be made without the efforts of those beyond the parents and family members of gun violence victims. People like you. People like me.

At a counter-rally outside the 2014 Annual NRA Paranoia Jamboree in Houston, I saw Erica Lafferty, daughter of Dawn Hockspung, murdered principal at Sandy Hook Elementary. I also saw the father of one of the murdered children. Despite their proximity and my desire to meet them, I was embarrassed to introduce myself. But was it the simple awkwardness attributed with expressing condolences or was it my guilt for not acting sooner to address gun violence? I don’t know the answer to that. I left them alone, content to stand alongside them that day in opposition to the more guns everywhere agenda of the NRA.

Tomorrow will be interesting. I am nervous, anxious and excited. I consider Sandy Phillips a hero. I don’t want to injure her or embarrass myself by saying something stupid or insensitive. It has been over three years now since I became active in this movement and I’ve seen it gather momentum despite roadblocks and disappointments. So, in spite of my nervousness tomorrow I will meet Sandy Phillips. I admire her too much not to attend.

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James Brady

spotlight-image-1James Brady died today.

For those too young to remember, Mr. Brady was President Reagan’s White House Press Secretary.

On Monday, March 30, 1981, only 69 days into his presidency, a disturbed young man fired a $12.95 revolver six times in 1.7 seconds. One of his “Devastator”-brand bullets, designed to explode on impact struck Mr. Brady above the left eye and detonated inside his skull.  Another round struck the president under his armpit. Fortunately, the president recovered, but Mr. Brady suffered a horrible head wound and was left partially paralyzed and bound to his wheelchair for the rest of his life.  Mr. Brady died today. Not every gun violence victim dies at the scene and the story never ends when the smoke clears.

In 1985, Sarah Brady joined the gun control movement, rising to chair The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence in 1991. However, it was not her husband’s shooting that got Mrs. Brady involved. To quote her:

 “Most people think I got seriously involved in the gun violence issue when Jim was shot. But it was actually another incident that started my active participation with gun violence prevention efforts.

It was back in the summer of 1985. Our family was visiting Jim’s hometown, Centralia, Illinois. At that time, our son Scott was just six years old. We had some friends who owned a construction company and they had a lovely home at the edge of town that had a swimming pool.

One day, our friend and an employee stopped by in a company pickup truck and asked if Scott and I would like to go out to the house for a swim. We thought that was a great idea. Scott got in first, and I climbed in behind him. He picked up off the seat what looked like a toy gun, and started waving it around, and I thought this was a perfect chance to talk to him about safety. So I took the little gun from him, intending to say he must never point even a toy gun at anyone.

As soon as I got it into my hand, I realized it was no toy. It was a fully-loaded Saturday-night special, very much like the one that had shot Jim. I cannot even begin to describe the rage that went through me. To think that my precious little boy had come so close to tragedy.

From that day on, I decided that much more needed to be done to help keep children safe from guns. And since that time, I have fought against the gun lobby and anyone else who wants guns “anywhere, at any time for any one.”

Forty-three different men have risen to become president of the United States. Four of them have been shot to death.  Two more have been wounded by gunfire and five more were shot at, but the assassin missed. That’s eleven out of 43. As president, you have a better than 25% chance of being shot at, shot and wounded or shot and killed. And this is a person protected by the best trained, best equipped individuals in the world.

Gun violence takes a crushing toll on surviving victims, family members (turned caregivers), friends, lost opportunities, lifelong pain, PTSD, massive medical bills and countless dreams left shattered on countless days of life’s calendar.

Mr. and Mrs. Brady did not ask for this route, but they cut a path through a dangerous, well defended forest and paved the way for the rest of us to forge a better tomorrow where dreams do not explode with a bullet’s impact. Mr. Brady died today, but their work continues.

Tick, Tock, Glock

Enough

According to the Brady Campaign, on average, for the five most recently available years for which statistics are available, every day in America there are:

291 people in America are shot (including 52 children (ages 0-19)

87 people die from gun violence:

32 are murdered (including 6 children)

51 kill themselves (including 2 children)

2 die unintentionally

1 is killed by police intervention

1, intent unknown

205 are shot and survive:

148 shot in an assault (including 34 children)

10 survive a suicide attempt (including 1 child)

45 are shot unintentionally (including 9 children)

2 are shot in a police intervention

 If we take these numbers and divide them equally over the course of a day, this is an average day in America:

 

Time               Event

12:00 AM       1st Shooting by Police intervention, person survives

12:10 AM       1st Assault Shooting, person survives

12:20 AM       2nd Assault Shooting, person survives

12:28 AM       1st Suicide Death with a gun

12:30 AM       3rd Assault Shooting, person survives

12:32 AM       1st Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

12:40 AM       4th Assault Shooting, 1st Child, survives

12:45 AM       1st Murder with a gun

12:50 AM       5th Assault Shooting, person survives

12:56 AM       2nd Suicide Death with a gun

1:00 AM         6th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:04 AM         2nd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

1:10 AM         7th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:20 AM         8th Assault Shooting, 2nd Child, survives

1:24 AM         3rd Suicide Death with a gun

1:30 AM         2nd Murder with a gun; 9th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:36 AM         3rd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

1:40 AM         10th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:50 AM         11th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:52 AM         4th Suicide Death with a gun

2:00 AM         12th Assault Shooting, 3rd Child, survives

2:08 AM         4th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

2:10 AM         13th Assault Shooting, person survives

2:15 AM         3rd Murder with a gun

2:20 AM         5th Suicide Death with a gun; 14th Assault Shooting, person survives

2:24 AM         1st Suicide Attempt with a gun

2:30 AM         15th Assault Shooting, person survives

2:40 AM         5th Accidental Shooting Injury, 1st Child, survives; 16th Assault Shooting, 4th Child, survives

2:48 AM         6th Suicide Death with a gun

2:50 AM         17th Assault Shooting, person survives

3:00 AM         4th Murder with a gun; 18th Assault Shooting, person survives

3:10 AM         19th Assault Shooting, person survives

3:12 AM         6th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

3:16 AM         7th Suicide Death with a gun

3:20 AM         20th Assault Shooting, 5th Child, survives

3:30 AM         21st Assault Shooting, person survives

3:40 AM         22nd Assault Shooting, person survives

3:44 AM         8th Suicide Death with a gun; 7th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

3:45 AM         5th Murder with a gun

3:50 AM         23rd Assault Shooting, person survives

4:00 AM         24th Assault Shooting, 6th Child, survives

4:10 AM         25th Assault Shooting, person survives

4:12 AM         9th Suicide Death with a  gun

4:16 AM         8th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

4:20 AM         26th Assault Shooting, person survives

4:30 AM         6th Murder with a gun, 1st Child; 27th Assault Shooting, person survives

4:40 AM         10th Suicide Death with a gun; 28th Assault Shooting, 7th Child, survives

4:48 AM         2nd Suicide Attempt with a gun; 9th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

4:50 AM         29th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:00 AM         30th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:08 AM         11th Suicide Death with a gun

5:10 AM         31st Assault Shooting, person survives

5:15 AM         7th Murder with a gun

5:20 AM         10th Accidental Shooting Injury, 2nd Child, survives; 32nd Assault Shooting, 8th Child, survives

5:30 AM         33rd Assault Shooting, person survives

5:36 AM         12th Suicide Death with a gun

5:40 AM         34th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:50 AM         35th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:52 AM         11th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

6:00 AM         8th Murder with a gun; 36th Assault Shooting, 9th Child, survives

6:01 AM         37th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:04 AM         13th Suicide Death with a gun

6:10 AM         38th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:20 AM         39th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:24 AM         12th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

6:30 AM         40th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:32 AM         14th Suicide Death with a gun

6:40 AM         41st Assault Shooting, 10th Child, survives

6:45 AM         9th Murder with a gun

6:50 AM         42nd Assault Shooting, person survives

6:56 AM         13th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

7:00 AM         15th Suicide Death with a gun; 43rd Assault Shooting, person survives

7:10 AM         44th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:12 AM         3rd Suicide Attempt with a gun

7:20 AM         45th Assault Shooting, 11th Child, survives

7:28 AM         16th Suicide Death with a gun; 14th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

7:30 AM         10th Murder with a gun; 46th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:40 AM         47th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:50 AM         48th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:56 AM         17th Suicide Death with a gun

8:00 AM         15th Accidental Shooting Injury, 3rd Child, survives; 49th Assault Shooting, 12th Child, survives

8:10 AM         50th Assault Shooting, person survives

8:15 AM         11th Murder with a gun, 2nd Child

8:20 AM         51st Assault Shooting, person survives

8:24 AM         18th Suicide Death with a gun

8:30 AM         52nd Assault Shooting, person survives

8:32 AM         16th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

8:40 AM         53rd Assault Shooting, 13th Child, survives

8:50 AM         54th Assault Shooting, person survives

8:52 AM         19th Suicide Death with a gun

9:00 AM         12th Murder with a gun; 55th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:04 AM         17th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

9:10 AM         56th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:20 AM         20th Suicide Death with a gun; 57th Assault Shooting, 14th Child, survives

9:30 AM         58th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:36 AM         4th Suicide Attempt with a gun; 18th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

9:40 AM         59th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:45 AM         13th Murder with a gun

9:48 AM         21st Suicide Death with a gun

9:50 AM         60th Assault Shooting, person survives

10:00 AM       61st Assault Shooting, 15th Child, survives

10:08 AM       19th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

10:10 AM       62nd Assault Shooting, person survives

10:16 AM       22nd Suicide Death with a gun

10:20 AM       63rd Assault Shooting, person survives

10:30 AM       14th Murder with a gun; 64th Assault Shooting, person survives

10:40 AM       20th Accidental Shooting Injury, 4th Child, survives; 65th Assault Shooting, 16th Child, survives

10:44 AM       23rd Suicide Death with a gun

10:50 AM       66th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:00 AM       67th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:10 AM       68th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:12 AM       24th Suicide Death with a gun; 21st Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

11:15 AM       15th Murder with a gun

11:20 AM       69th Assault Shooting, 17th Child, survives

11:30 AM       70th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:40 AM       25th Suicide Death with a gun, 1st Child; 71st Assault Shooting, person survives

11:44 AM       22nd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

11:50 AM       72nd Assault Shooting, person survives

11:59 AM       147th Assault Shooting, person survives

12:00 PM       16th Murder with a gun, 3rd Child; 1st Accidental Shooting Death; 1st Death by Police intervention; 1st Death, intent unknown; 73rd Assault Shooting, 18th Child, survives; 5th Suicide Attempt with a gun, 1st Child; 2nd Shooting by Police intervention, survives

12:01 PM       74th Assault Shooting, person survives

12:08 PM       26th Suicide Death with a gun

12:10 PM       75th Assault Shooting, person survives

12:16 PM       23rd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

12:20 PM       76th Assault Shooting, person survives

12:30 PM       77th Assault Shooting, person survives

12:36 PM       27th Suicide Death with a gun

12:40 PM       78th Assault Shooting, 19th Child, survives

12:45 PM       17th Murder with a gun

12:48 PM       24th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

12:50 PM       79th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:00 PM         80th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:04 PM         28th Suicide Death with a gun

1:10 PM         81st Assault Shooting, person survives

1:20 PM         25th Accidental Shooting Injury, 5th Child, survives; 82nd Assault Shooting, 20th Child, survives

1:30 PM         18th Murder with a gun; 83rd Assault Shooting, person survives

1:32 PM         29th Suicide Death with a gun

1:40 PM         84th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:50 PM         85th Assault Shooting, person survives

1:52 PM         26th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

2:00 PM         30th Suicide Death with a gun; 86th Assault Shooting, 21st Child, survives

2:10 PM         87th Assault Shooting, person survives

2:15 PM         19th Murder with a gun

2:20 PM         88th Assault Shooting, person survives

2:24 PM         6th Suicide Attempt with a gun; 27th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

2:28 PM         31st Suicide Death with a gun

2:30 PM         89th Assault Shooting, person survives

2:40 PM         90th Assault Shooting, 22nd Child, survives

2:50 PM         91st Assault Shooting, person survives

2:56 PM         32nd Suicide Death with a gun; 28th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

3:00 PM         20th Murder with a gun; 92nd Assault Shooting, person survives

3:10 PM         93rd Assault Shooting, person survives

3:20 PM         94th Assault Shooting, 23rd Child, survives

3:24 PM         33rd Suicide Death with a gun

3:28 PM         29th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

3:30 PM         95th Assault Shooting, person survives

3:40 PM         96th Assault Shooting, person survives

3:45 PM         21st Murder with a gun, 4th Child

3:50 PM         97th Assault Shooting, person survives

3:52 PM         34th Suicide Death with a gun

4:00 PM         30th Accidental Shooting Injury, 6th Child, survives; 98th Assault Shooting, 24th Child, survives

4:10 PM         99th Assault Shooting, person survives

4:20 PM         35th Suicide Death with a gun; 100th Assault Shooting, person survives

4:30 PM         22nd Murder with a gun; 101st Assault Shooting, person survives

4:32 PM         31st Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

4:40 PM         102nd Assault Shooting, 25th Child, survives

4:48 PM         36th Suicide Death with a gun; 7th Suicide Attempt with a gun

4:50 PM         103rd Assault Shooting, person survives

5:00 PM         104th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:04 PM         32nd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

5:10 PM         105th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:15 PM         23rd Murder with a gun

5:16 PM         37th Suicide Death with a gun

5:20 PM         106th Assault Shooting, 26th Child, survives

5:30 PM         107th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:36 PM         33rd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

5:40 PM         108th Assault Shooting, person survives

5:44 PM         38th Suicide Death with a gun

5:50 PM         109th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:00 PM         24th Murder with a gun; 110th Assault Shooting, 27th Child, survives

6:01 PM         111th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:08 PM         34th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

6:10 PM         112th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:12 PM         39th Suicide Death with a gun

6:20 PM         113th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:30 PM         114th Assault Shooting, person survives

6:40 PM         40th Suicide Death with a gun; 35th Accidental Shooting Injury, 7th Child, survives; 115th Assault Shooting, 28th Child, survives

6:45 PM         25th Murder with a gun

6:50 PM         116th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:00 PM         117th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:08 PM         41st Suicide Death with a gun

7:10 PM         118th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:12 PM         8th Suicide Attempt with a gun; 36th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

7:20 PM         119th Assault Shooting, 29th Child, survives

7:30 PM         26th Murder with a gun, 5th Child; 120th Assault Shooting, person survives

7:36 PM         42nd Suicide Death with a gun

7:40 PM         121st Assault Shooting, person survives

7:44 PM         37th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

7:50 PM         122nd Assault Shooting, person survives

8:00 PM         123rd Assault Shooting, 30th Child, survives

8:04 PM         43rd Suicide Death with a gun

8:10 PM         124th Assault Shooting, person survives

8:15 PM         27th Murder with a gun

8:16 PM         38th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

8:20 PM         125th Assault Shooting, person survives

8:30 PM         126th Assault Shooting, person survives

8:32 PM         44th Suicide Death with a gun

8:40 PM         127th Assault Shooting, 31st Child, survives

8:48 PM         39th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

8:50 PM         128th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:00 PM         28th Murder with  a gun; 45th Suicide Death with a gun; 129th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:10 PM         130th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:20 PM         40th Accidental Shooting Injury, 8th Child, survives; 131st Assault Shooting, 32nd Child, survives

9:28 PM         46th Suicide Death with a gun

9:30 PM         132nd Assault Shooting, person survives

9:36 PM         9th Suicide Attempt with a gun

9:40 PM         133rd Assault Shooting, person survives

9:45 PM         29th Murder with a gun

9:50 PM         134th Assault Shooting, person survives

9:52 PM         41st Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

9:56 PM         47th Suicide Death with a gun

10:00 PM       135th Assault Shooting, 33rd Child, survives

10:10 PM       136th Assault Shooting, person survives

10:20 PM       137th Assault Shooting, person survives

10:24 PM       48th Suicide Death with a gun; 42nd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

10:30 PM       30th Murder with a gun; 138th Assault Shooting, person survives

10:40 PM       139th Assault Shooting, 34th Child, survives

10:50 PM       140th Assault Shooting, person survives

10:52 PM       49th Suicide Death with a gun

10:56 PM       43rd Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

11:00 PM       141st Assault Shooting, person survives

11:10 PM       142nd Assault Shooting, person survives

11:15 PM       31st Murder with a gun, 6th Child

11:20 PM       50th Suicide Death with a gun; 143rd Assault Shooting, person survives

11:28 PM       44th Accidental Shooting Injury, person survives

11:30 PM       144th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:40 PM       145th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:48 PM       51st Suicide Death with a gun, 2nd Child

11:50 PM       146th Assault Shooting, person survives

11:59 PM       32nd Murder with a gun; 2nd Accidental Shooting Death; 10th Suicide Attempt with a gun; 45th Accidental Shooting Injury, 9th Child, survives; 148th Assault Shooting, person survives

Now repeat this, every day, until enough of us demand a better society.

My Confession

I have a confession to make. It’s not one I’m proud of, especially given my small participation in trying to reduce gun violence in America. On May 23rd, in Santa Barbara, a gunman killed six people and then himself on a college campus. On June 5th, in Seattle, a gunman killed one person on a college campus. On June 8th, in Las Vegas, a couple killed three people, including two police officers and then themselves. And yesterday, in Troutdale, Oregon, a student killed another student and then himself. Oh, and on June 3rd, in New Brunswick, Canada, a gunman killed three police officers. Nineteen days have passed since the murders in Santa Barbara. Eighteen people died in those 5 incidents.

According to the Brady Campaign, on average, 86 people are killed by gun violence in America every day (33 are murdered and another 50 kill themselves). Every day another 205 are shot and survive (including 148 shot during an assault, 10 suicide attempts and 45 “accidents”). To annualize those numbers is to understand the magnitude of our psychosis. 31,346 people are killed due to gun violence every year. Another 74,835 are injured, but survive. That amounts to over 100,000 Americans victims of gun violence every year.

In the 543 days since 20 six- and seven-year olds were murdered along with six of their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, there have been 74 school shootings. Seventy four! If the chart below of school shootings doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of you, you have liquid nitrogen running through your veins.

Yesterday, President Obama said, “The country has to do some soul searching about this. This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted, in ways that as a parent are terrifying to me.” Ah, but all of these people must be crazy, whispered the 2A “patriots.” To wit, the president said, “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.”

The United States has a gun homicide rate 20 times higher than other developed countries. Surely, we are not to believe that we have 20 times more mentally troubled people than these other developed countries. Their reply, “It’s the person not the gun. A gun is an inanimate object. If it weren’t for the gun, they would find another method.” To wit, I would refer you to author Steven King’s response in his book Guns:

 “I read a jaw-dropping online defense of these weapons from a California woman recently. Guns, she said, are just tools. Like spoons, she said. Would you outlaw spoons simply because some people use them to eat too much? Lady, let’s see you try to kill twenty school kids with a fucking spoon.”

There are over 300,000,000 guns in America. If having a gun made people safer, America would be the safest country on the planet. We’re not. Not even close.

The White House tweeted the following comment from the president yesterday:

So, my question to you is this: What will it take? The slaughter of 20 school children didn’t do it. Eighty six deaths and 205 injuries a day hasn’t done it.  Seriously, what will it take for us to say, “Enough”?  Is there a number? Is there a victim? Are we content with this and numb to the stories? Have we swallowed the “good guy” line from the NRA and now consider these deaths and injuries collateral damage and friendly fire in order for us to “exercise” our “God given” Second Amendment right? Or are we ready to insist on change? Will we demand a better, safer future for our children? As one of the millions who work every day to bring about change I believe we deserve, I hope so, because here is my confession: I have muddled the most recent shootings. I can’t keep them straight in my head. I feel horrible for the victims, family members and friends of the victims, because they deserve to be remembered. I just can’t keep them straight anymore. I demand better of myself and my country. What about you?

Hope and Faith

3--2099124-Rhode Island State Flag Waving

In searching for solace following the announcement that Claire Davis had died of the injuries she suffered at the school shooting in Arapahoe, Colorado, I did what comes naturally to many of us; I thought of home. The childhood I had known with its safety and warmth. It was there, on a field of white, that I found the spigot which allowed me to continue the flow of determination necessary to drive forward. The Rhode Island state flag is a field of white with thirteen gold stars arranged in a circle with a gold anchor in the middle above the word Hope on a blue ribbon. Hope. The word rings with anticipation, excitement and an overall expectation that tomorrow will be better than today.

This thought from home also forced me to consider the difference between hope and faith. To me, faith is the hope I have in others that someone else will fix the problem, whereas hope is the faith I have in myself that I can fix the problem.

I know what you’re thinking; that’s a very libertarian thought for someone who has been called a “libtard,” an “Obamabot,” and, through my limited understanding of texting idioms to “GFY” (which I initially understood to mean “good for you.”) My children, between fits of laughter later explained that my Twitter adversary and I had NOT reached a common understanding on the gun violence issue! However, after one year of being an “accidental activist,” I can say, without reservation, that I am not alone and that my Hope is buoyed by the knowledge that there are others risking vitriol and threats of physical harm to move America toward a safer future. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Brady Campaign, It Can Happen Here and others are stocked with motivated, opinionated and politically active members.

My hope is that we have enough faith in each other to know we will fix this problem.

Inertia

Bullet Flag

It has been one year since the awful events of December 14, 2012 occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. One year since a disturbed individual availed himself of the arsenal his mother had legally purchased and shattered families in the little New England town and horrified individuals throughout the country and the world. Reaction was swift (except for the NRA) and all signs pointed to a paradigm shift occurring in the long argued battle over gun rights in America.

However, it proved to be a difficult year, not just for the families forced to endure each holiday or family event without their loved one. Indeed, for these uncounted victims, while they did not lose their lives on that fateful day, they certainly lost the lives they had known and the futures for which they had planned and expected. Daily events, done thousands of times before, took on a new, mechanical air as they searched to redefine “normal.” It is for these people and the loved ones they have lost that many people joined the voices of those calling for change. As I searched for some way to understand the past year’s events, the term “inertia” kept clawing into my mind. And so, using the words of Sir Isaac Newton, I begin:

“Every body perseveres in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed thereon.” Axioms or Laws of Motion, Law I, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, page 12, Sir Isaac Newton, 5 July 1687

Prior to the multiple, brutal mass shootings of 2012, organizations such as the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence and its legislative arm the Legal Action Project have been fighting the ever increasingly extremist positions of the NRA in courts across the country securing minor victories against a tide of right wing battles which have resulted in concealed carry becoming legal in all 50 states, open carry laws spreading like spilled blood across the country and stand your ground laws allowing shoot first confrontations to become immune to punishment and rationale to the paranoid. In addition, the NRA has systematically enticed Congress to reduce funding for firearm violence research, rendered impotent the ATF and exempted gun manufacturers from all product liability responsibility; this seismic shift occurring despite the screams of those opposing the proliferation of guns and warning of their inevitable violent toll on society. However, to the general public, raised on and catered to by sound bites and instant gratification, these long-term societal changes went unnoticed.

To use Newton’s terminology, the body (society) persevered in a state of rest (miasmic banality) WHILE it was (quietly) compelled to change that state by forces (NRA) impressed thereon. In effect, while we were distracted by other crises being broadcast 24/7 on cable news, it took the events of 2012 for us to realize not only the playing field had changed, but that we were in the third quarter of a different sport. In doing so, lives were lost, families destroyed and history altered. Shame on us.

 “The alteration of motion is ever proportional to the motive force impressed; and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impressed.”  Axioms or Laws of Motion, Law II, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, page 12, Sir Isaac Newton, 5 July 1687

Many people began to wake up following the midnight movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20th. Most did not. The momentum created by the murders culminated in prayer vigils, moments of silence and an increase in gun sales across the country, including in Aurora.

Unfortunately, it would take another, even more mind-twisting event to wake the majority of Americans.  Only 147 days later, another disturbed individual, armed with a weapon of war, laid bare America as a gun violence dystopia to a disbelieving world. Suddenly, there was an outrage that flashed longer than a prayer filled candlelight vigil, longer than a moment of silence. People from across the country looked directly at the entities responsible for allowing this type of future to unfold: the gun lobby and the elected officials that they owned. Ever aware of their behind the scenes effectiveness and ability to outlast the public, the gun lobby “pleaded” with America not to politicize the tragedy arguing that it was not the right time to discuss legislation when so many families were in immediate pain. Unbelievably, and counter to all rational thinking, the NRA responded by saying the cure for gun violence was more guns. More cancer is not the cure for cancer. Drilling more holes in the bottom of the boat is not the cure for a sinking vessel. Eating more steak is not the cure for heart disease. But according to the NRA, more guns will cure America of its gun violence. Across the country, the sound of gears, springs and cogs could be heard crashing out of the logical brains of rational people.

Over the following months, a groundswell of accidental activists began asking, aloud, what could be done to change our society, to create a future where our children were safe from the hail of bullets in a country awash in firearms. The well-oiled machine that is the gun lobby sent forth their legion of followers with canned arguments too short to fill a bumper sticker and too simplistic to defend. Here, Newton’s second law of motion became evident. The trajectory the gun lobby had set the country upon was being impressed upon with a motive force from the majority of Americans not beholden to a gun metal deity. The new activists credited those who had been fighting all along for their successes and acknowledge, in Newton’s own words that, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

“To every Action there is always opposed an equal Reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.” Axioms or Laws of Motion, Law III, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, page 13, Sir Isaac Newton, 5 July 1687

However, as predicted and anticipated by the gun lobby, America’s fickle attention wandered to other crises. Gun safety legislation, considered unassailable in December, sputtered and crashed when the gun lobby reminded Senate Republicans (and a few Democrats in red states) who owned them. And this is when the most amazing part of the story occurred. Those accidental activists demanding gun safety did not fold up their tents and go home. To the chagrin of the gun lobby, the activists absorbed the legislative loss, considered it a learning opportunity and realized that the change they saw as necessary and obvious would not be achieved immediately. It was a marathon, not a sprint. Again, to quote Newton, “Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.”

It was this event, the recognition of the gun safety activists that change would take time, which brings us to the question of whether we will remain in Newton’s third law of motion or see further movement because of his second. Will the opposing forces on the gun issue in America push against each other in a long-term stalemate, or will one side emit enough force to alter the trajectory of this issue?

Rather than demand change from the existing politicians locally and nationally, the activists have begun developing campaigns to elect a legislature more conducive to change. Rather than have a hissy-fit and demand a recall when a vote goes against their wishes, activists have embraced a longer term agenda of electing those who will act in the best interest of society and not the best interest of gun manufacturers. They have also sought to change our communities, not through legislation, but with the pressure of the pocketbook. Corporations are being pressured to provide safe shopping environments for their customers devoid of the testosterone-fueled paranoid shouldering their beloved bazooka.

Interestingly enough, the push back seen by the gun enthusiasts has been in the form of misogynistic berating of activists, the creation of “bleeding” gun targets in the image of the president and female gun safety activists and groups of gun-toting enthusiasts parading through towns and posing outside gun safety activist meetings. Is this the best approach the gun lobby can muster? Evidence suggests that these pedantic actions expose the gun lobby as the far right wing paranoids they are. Attacking ones opponent rather than their position will not win arguments. As Cicero said, “He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason.”

And so here we are, one year out from the horrors of December 14, 2012. Which of Newton’s laws of motion will prevail? Perhaps Newton himself predicted the outcome when he said, “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.” May logic overcome vitriol and compassion trump paranoia.