Sara Weinberger: Resolve to help save lives in 2013
NORTHAMPTON — We have cried. We have grieved. We have shared our sadness, rage, and frustration around holiday dinner tables. We have listened to media pundits and cynical others say that changing gun laws will never happen in an era where the NRA has ultimate power over our elected officials, and as a result we have justified inaction with pessimism.
“Why not have police officers in every school?” a friend said recently at a Christmas Eve gathering. A chorus of guests swallowed their pasta, put down their forks and responded, “That’s not the solution.”
“One police officer caught by surprise can’t defend against a barrage of bullets from an automatic weapon.” “What about the thousands of people, many of them children, who are murdered outside of school?” Yet, few people had any other remedies to offer against the preponderance of gun violence and the Second Amendment activists who are holding our country hostage.
The reality is that we can do something. Our greatest weapon in the war over gun control is our voices. On Dec. 21, President Obama responded in a statement and video to the barrage of petitions on the White House’s We The People Website calling for stricter gun laws, asking the president to “immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress.”
In his video, the president told Americans, “I need your help. If we’re going to succeed, it’s going to take a sustained effort from mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, law enforcement and responsible gun owners, organizing, speaking up, calling their members of Congress as many times as it takes, standing up and saying ‘Enough’ on behalf of all our kids.”
Many have responded, but too often we remain silent. We convince ourselves that ordinary people can’t make a difference. Yet, had it not been for the efforts of ordinary people, white males would still be the only people voting, gay and lesbian people would not have civil rights, let alone be allowed to be marry, and cigarettes could be marketed without restrictions.
We gain the rights we are entitled to by demanding that our elected officials respect our wishes and by not stopping until we have gotten what we want.
Now that the buzz of the holidays has ended and we turn our thoughts to the New Year, it’s time to make ending gun violence our number-one resolution this year.
In Australia, after a 1996 ban on all automatic and semiautomatic weapons — a real ban, not like the one we enacted in 1994 with 600-plus exceptions — gun-related homicides dropped 59 percent over the next decade. The rate of suicide by firearm plummeted 65 percent, according to Fareed Zakaria in a Washington Post article Dec. 19.
Here are some actions that all of us can take. They are sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan organization of more than 750 mayors representing more than 57 million Americans who promote commonsense gun laws. These resolutions are a lot easier than losing 10 pounds or going to the gym three times a week and the benefits extend far beyond ourselves.
• Go to www.demandaplan.org and sign their petition demanding that Congress introduce comprehensive gun control legislation.
• Once you’ve done this, scroll down and email a letter to Congress and President Obama.
• After that, use their web page to enable you to call your Congressional representatives as well as President Obama.
(I just did all three actions in less than 10 minutes.)
• Then use their link to spread the word to your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter.
• Keep scrolling down and click on the link to find out if your mayor has joined the coalition. Mayors David Narkewicz, Alex Morse and Domenic Sarno, of Northampton, Holyoke, and Springfield, are members. You can send them a thank-you note. If your mayor is not on the list, recruit them with a letter or a phone call.
• Educate yourself and educate others. This website is loaded with information. Learn why Massachusetts is rated among the worst states, because of its broken background check system.
There are no guarantees that taking action will lead to effective gun control legislation. The only guarantee is that not taking action will only lead to the deaths of more innocent victims.
Sara Weinberger of Northampton is a member of the Northampton Human Rights Commission and a retired professor of social work at Western New England University.
The reality is that we can do something. Our greatest weapon in the war over gun control is our voices.