Changing the Conversation on Gun Violence

By Shira Goodman

Screenshot from ABC News video on YouTube.

Screenshot from ABC News video on YouTube.

Following the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., we are mourning. And we are outraged. But we are not surprised. The truth is, we’re complicit in accepting this carnage, because we’ve allowed lawmakers to pretend there’s nothing we can do to prevent such shootings. We have tolerated losing 96 Americans a day to guns.

I don’t know when or how that happened. Certainly, no one I know thinks that’s an acceptable sacrifice. Who made this deal with the devil, and how do we get out of it?

When we feel helpless and hopeless, when we listen to politicians who tell us it’s too early to talk about policy changes, we commit ourselves to accepting further loss of life. When we focus on whether any one particular measure would have prevented the current tragedy, we play into the hands of the gun lobby, which works tirelessly to prevent any change.

We must totally change the conversation. It is not too early at all; indeed, for so many we’ve lost, it’s too late. But it’s not too late to keep other families from knowing the pain that so many American families bear.

As we bury the dead, tend to the injured and work to help our kids cope with the Parkland tragedy, there will be an inevitable focus on why this happened. But this too, is the wrong question. It doesn’t really matter why; learning the motivations of the shooter will not help us solve our gun violence problem.

So, I urge you to ask a different question: how did this happen. The answer is that once again, someone got easy access to a semi-automatic rifle and high capacity magazines, and committed mass murder in the place our kids are supposed to be safest.

And we can take steps to stop it. We can and must work on the issues of access to guns, regulation of assault weapons, storage of guns, and the elevation of a right over any regulation or responsibility.

Once we focus on the how, we will find that there are whole packages of policy changes that will make a difference in our ongoing battle against gun violence. When we shift the conversation and recognize that at bottom, we have a gun problem, we can get serious about solving it.

Until we make this shift, we will continue to play into the hands of the gun lobby and keep repeating the cycle of horror, outrage, distraction and inaction. We can’t afford to keep doing this. We lose too many people every day, even in the absence of mass shootings. When we factor in that mass shootings are happening frequently in our schools, our houses of worship, our movie theaters and our workplaces, we must realize that no one is immune. This problem belongs to all of us, so the responsibility to solve it lies with each of us.

Shira Goodman is the executive director of CeaseFirePA, Pennsylvania’s gun violence prevention organization.


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