An event to make us stop and think
By Lu Mountenay
Heartland Coalition Against Gun Violence presented the Gun Violence-Culture of Fear Forum in KCMO on Oct. 10, 2016. Nationally syndicated columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Leonard Pitts was the keynote speaker at the event, cosponsored by Grandparents Against Gun Violence, PeaceWorks-KC, and other community groups. Joining Pitts were Mayor Sly James, Dr. Micah Kubic (ACLU), State Rep. Judy Morgan, and other experts who testified on the current state of gun violence, locally and nationally.
Mayor James sparked the conversation by recognizing that non-gun owners have rights, too. He cited statistics to make us stop and think: “There are 360 people shot per day in the US. Ninety of them result in death. Seven of those deaths are children.” This bears repeating: Seven children are killed each day by gunshot. Grandparents: Stand up and speak!
James informed us that 40 percent of gun sales are made without background checks, including those at gun shows and on the internet. He said, “I wish I didn’t have to be here talking about what should be just common sense. It is painfully obvious that politicians are not acting responsibly; that the public is ahead of the legislature, many of whom fear the gun lobby. The recent gun bill passed by the Missouri legislature is ridiculous! They put their constituents in danger, and that is inexcusable.”
Leonard Pitts continued the discussion by referring to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key, a slaveholder. The words “the land of the free” were a lie for blacks at the time, and oftentimes remain a lie, even now.
Gun owners are more likely to harm themselves and their family than to use guns for protection, said Pitts. “The NRA characterizes discussion about gun safety as a prelude to gun confiscation—they are threatened by common-sense discussion. Fearful thinking is not rational thinking. All constitutional rights need to be regulated.” Pitts pointed out that the First Amendment (free speech) is regulated, but efforts to regulate the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms) are constantly under attack.
Pitts asked, “What kind of world will you leave your children? Will we continue to allow the NRA, which represents a minority of Americans, to endanger their (your children’s) future with their overzealous lobbying? Some legislators wear their NRA scores as a badge of honor. We need to change the American mindset to put children’s rights first.” In our fight for gun safety, we need to “be consistent, persistent, long-term, and brave,” Pitts said.
What can I do?
VOTE … in every election, local and national.
WORK … volunteer to work for candidates you agree with and use your social network to promote them. Donate to their campaigns so the NRA can’t compete for their vote.
PRESSURE THOSE IN OFFICE … make their lives uncomfortable if they refuse to close background-check loopholes. Be a nuisance.
USE YOUR VOICE – EVERYWHERE … talk to friends. Ask questions of gun owners – is their gun locked away from children? Write letters to the editor.
CHANGE THE CULTURE … Don’t wait for a tragedy in your community. Keep informed, follow gun legislation changes, and make your opinion loud.
Go to www.moksgagv.org for more information about what you can do to stop gun violence.
—Lu Mountenay is vice-chairperson of the PeaceWorks Board of Directors.