Research is Clear: It’s the Guns
I can hardly speak as the number dead in Uvalde rises to 19 children and two adults. My words slip on my tears, insufficient to capture the central horror; language cannot express the primal howl I know so many of us feel. Nineteen children woke up yesterday and kissed their folks goodbye, looking forward to after-school sports and cartoons—giddy at summer vacation just three days away. Two adults going about their day, making grocery lists in their heads, imagining what might be for dinner. Twenty-one sacred, irreplaceable wonders gone in minutes—the latest sacrifices upon an insatiable American altar.
The massacre at a Buffalo supermarket had already drifted from headlines in the mere 10 days between that atrocity and this one.
We are a nation traumatized into forgetting, psyches so pulverized by mass death that we vacillate wildly between rage and numbness—waiting until the cycle begins again, so frequent it masquerades as normalcy. But grandparents slain while picking vegetables and babies slaughtered in their classrooms deserve more than another performance of thoughts and prayers. Their lives demand our attention and our action.
We seem locked in a descending spiral into violence, and it’s shaping how our children grow. We desperately need a revolution of values, but that is long and arduous work and we simply cannot endure unending carnage while we do it.
Research is clear: It’s the guns. Given the remarkably high rates of gun ownership, if the solution to this violence was more guns in the hands of more people, we would have already ended this epidemic of mass death. When communities have more guns it increases the homicide rate. It increases the number of people who die by suicide. It increases the number of fatal accidents. And it increases the number of times we collectively experience this potent rage and grief.
And still, Congress refuses to pass even the most measured, moderate gun legislation—much less the kind of drastic gun confiscation we’d need to truly eradicate what plagues us. State legislators have passed more than 550 bills to restrict abortion access, but many can’t be bothered to protect the lives of the children already in our midst.
Mass shootings do not need to be an inevitable element of American life. If we want this time to be different, we must be different as well, finding ways to transform our grief into healing our future. We cannot be content with calling our representatives so they can continue to summarily ignore us and stifle change. The protests outside Brett Kavanaugh’s house made one thing abundantly clear: Clear and direct non-violent action still holds the power to pressure public officials to take action of their own. And we cannot be content with marches along predetermined police routes, containers constructed to defuse our righteous rage.
Gun policy must be a litmus test as we organize for the midterms in November. Any politician who refuses to act must wear their indifference as a millstone around their necks, pulling them from office. Our votes are our voice; they can answer the cries of the dead. They can proclaim: We will not continue to live and die like this.