I paused last week when I heard news of the shooting in Virginia. Unfortunately, I was not surprised.
Gun violence in America has become a commonplace occurrence. In 1999, the Columbine School shooting stopped America in its tracks. These days, shootings are so frequent even President Obama, who rode a wave of support based on a platform of hope and change, seems to have lost faith that Americans can do something about this until we agree that "this is not normal."
One of the latest victims, Alison Parker, was a bright young woman. My heart aches for her parents and for the many more parents who will continue to bury their children and suffer this incomprehensible loss. It seems that schools, the workplace and even recreation areas are no longer safe from gun violence. Meanwhile, some continue to insist the best response is that we all carry guns. For protection.
I don't want to believe we are living in that type of country.
Instead, states and the federal government need to take action. We need to make sure that people who demonstrate they are a potential harm to themselves or others do not have easy access to guns. Even in the face of continued tragedy, this is a controversial idea. But we cannot continue to live in a country where we restrict women's access to birth control but feel like our rights are being threatened at the mere mention of sensible gun control.
As parents we have a personal stake in the outcome of all this. If all parents vote for legislators that support sensible restrictions, the tide would change. Alison Parker's parents have vowed to do whatever it takes to end gun violence. They started by calling out lawmakers in their state who voted against a recent gun control measure.
Sometimes issues are so complex that it is difficult to find the root causes. We can start by looking inwards.
In California, parents of the Isla Vista shooter put their efforts into enacting legislation that would protect others from gun violence. There are powerful forces like the NRA that will do anything in their power to protect what they claim is a constitutional right to bear arms, even at the cost of the lives of children. We can't change the hearts and minds of everyone on this issue in a country as diverse as ours. But we have to find common ground. After all, this isn't about being against guns. It's about being against gun violence.
I've always believed the personal is political. We also have a responsibility to raise children who do not grow up to become perpetrators of violence. This might be a harsh statement, because I know that no parent purposely raises a child to be violent. But I implore all of us to look closely at how are we raising our children—particularly our boys. In a culture where boys are not allowed emotions such as empathy and the cultural push to exert masculinity is focused on aggression, men will act out in violent ways.
I know some people will say we cannot blame the media for our problems. I will say the media is simply a manifestation of the values a culture holds in high regard, and so we all play a role in this. I have these conversations in my own household by examining what media we consume, what celebrities we admire and, in my partner's case, what type of art he is putting out there.
We also need to pay attention to the other people on the ballot: where do your members of Congress stand on this issue?
These are not always easy conversations—but they are necessary.
Sometimes issues are so complex that it is difficult to find the root causes. We can start by looking inwards. The first time I locked eyes with my child, I felt a love and connection so profound that my life transformed. Just like that. I would do anything for my child. I know we all would.
As parents, we should feel saddened by this and then take action. We can't wait for more lives to be lost. A group called Moms Demand Action is holding a day of action on September 10th.T heir goal is to get Congress to do something. They are using #whateverittakes to raise awareness. We all nee to join their cause.
Finally, as we move into the next presidential election, we need to consider where the candidates stand on this issue. We also need to pay attention to the other people on the ballot: where do your members of Congress stand on this issue? What is their voting record on sensible gun control? After we vote, are we holding our electeds accountable?
Our children are counting us to keep them safe. What will parents do to make sure that happens?