I live fifty miles from Orlando.
If you know anything about Central Florida, and especially the I-4 Corridor, fifty miles for us is nothing. We travel fifty miles to go to work each day. We will hop in our cars and drive fifty miles just to shop at our favorite store or visit a festival or fair. Fifty miles is a hop, skip and a jump to where we need to go.
In fact, for almost eight years, my husband made the drive from our home to his work site in Orlando, not five miles away from the shooting. Orlando is our neighborhood.
So when news that a shooting had taken place at The Pulse in Orlando, Florida, it might as well have happened in our backyard. I taught in a local high school for many years and knew it was a place many of our graduates would end up visiting. It was a LGBT club but, as President Obama said, it was also a place where people, especially young people, could go to be themselves, express their identities and just have a good time.
Therefore, I cannot express the devastation I felt when I read this club had been targeted by an extreme homophobe, and became the site of the worst mass shooting in American history. It was doubly compounded by the fact that two of our former students from that same high school were declared deceased after having gone missing. That distance we traveled ended up meaning nothing.
What concerns me most are statements I am seeing in the comment sections of social media posts, that because of this event, many will vote for Trump, because he made some vague, unsustainable comment to keep all those dastardly Muslims out of our country.
These comments ignore completely the fact that America has become awash in guns of every kind. When other countries were faced with mass shootings of this kind (Switzerland and Australia), their politicians had the political will to institute a buy-back programs of weapons and ammunition as well as serious regulations on the purchase of guns. Switzerland, in particular, has a systematic culture of responsible gun use that is completely absent in the United States.
In this country, the NRA-backed Congress has instituted and extended a ban on the CDC from conducting even basic research on gun violence. The NRA’s political might is responsible for getting weapons of mass destruction into the hands of those who have no reason to possess them. As a nation, this is where we need place our focus, not on building walls between nations or targeting people because of their religion, most of whom are just trying to live their lives. This is not who we are as a country. In fact, it is this kind of hate-filled rhetoric – against Muslims, the LGBT community, Mexicans and others – together with weapons of mass destruction, that propels would-be killers into the realm of mass murders.
We own weapons like gamers own power-ups. It’s time for us to start acting like adults.
Please don’t tell me that any kind of regulation would be violating your god-given right to bear arms. I own a handgun also. I’m not a ninny. But the 2nd Amendment concedes the right to bear arms as part of “…a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State.” Like the Swiss. Last time I looked, none of us were part of a “well-regulated militia.” It’s starting to look like the Wild West out here. And since when does anyone except for a very specific few need an AR14 anyway?
I’m tired of waving my multi-colored flag. I’m tired of mourning. I’m tired of asking for “prayers and thoughts” that lead to nothing. I don’t want to live in terror every time I send my sons to school. I don’t want to worry, when I am in a movie theater or public event, if I will become the next statistic.
Find an advocacy group. Donate if you don’t have time. If our politicians won’t do it, we have to figure out a way to make change happen from the ground up. Here are the links to six groups engaged in effective gun control advocacy:
Nothing – no race, or religion or nationality – separates our humanity from each another. There is no length we should not be willing to go to keep each other safe.
What other ideas ideas do you have to work political change from the ground up? Leave comments below.