Another perspective: We must demand change before it will ever happen


(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star

In December 2012, 20 first-graders and six educators were slaughtered by a young man with an assault weapon at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The American people were horrified. Mass shootings, even in schools, had happened before, but the nature of the Sandy Hook massacre stirred emotions to a fever pitch.

The outcry was intense, and congressional leaders initially responded. Proposals included an assault weapons ban, followed by expanded criminal background checks, then restrictions on large capacity magazines, all of which had widespread public support. But those proposals were greeted by fierce opposition from the powerful National Rifle Association, chief lobbying organization for firearms manufacturers. Eventually, every proposal met a stunning rebuke. Ten years later, gun violence and mass shootings remain a societal scourge. The latest round of mayhem began on May 14 when a teenage gunman is accused of killing 10 people and injuring three others in a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y.

Ten days later, a teenage gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, before being killed by law enforcement. More violence followed at locations around the country.

Motives and circumstances varied, but easy access to high-powered weapons was a common denominator.

The public again responded with a deafening outcry. People from all walks of life have expressed anger and anguish.

One such outburst came from Indiana, where Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron unleashed an expletive-filled response to a Facebook post deflecting responsibility for the massacres away from guns. Her coarse language might have been inappropriate, but her anger reflected the sentiment of a frustrated majority.

Will it be any different this time? There are glimmers of hope. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has announced a framework for legislation that addresses issues related to mass shootings and gun violence, including reforms to gun laws. While the proposals don’t provide the aggressive remedies many seek, they represent a step forward. And they show that citizens’ voices can have an effect on those in power.

Citizens can be part of the solution. Be informed. The facts are on your side. It’s OK to display emotion. Be emphatic, but voice your opinion with respect and civility. Don’t be intimidated by bluster or bullies. They may be louder, but that doesn’t mean they’re right.

Know your elected officials who are in positions of power or influence over relevant issues – state legislators, executives such as your governor, and members of the U.S. Congress. Don’t hesitate to contact them and share your views.

Americans don’t have to accept gun violence and mass shootings as an unfortunate fact of life. The solution lies in public action to demand change and reform. Be part of that effort.