This morning, nine-year-old Anton was cuddling on the sofa and asked to skip school. “What if I stay home, and we just hang out?” he said, with a half smile.
“I’d love nothing more than to hang out with you,” I told him, “But you have to go to school.” I handed him a pair of tiny socks to put on.
“Well, there’s probably something you’d like more, like a million dollars!” he said.
“Not even a million dollars,” I told him and meant it.
After we walked to school — well, I walked; he ran and danced — I couldn’t get our exchange out of my mind. I would beg, borrow or steal a million billion trillion dollars to hang out with my children forever, and these families in Nashville need to somehow survive the rest of their lives without their beloved nine-year-olds?
Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9, William Kinney, 9, and Hallie Scruggs, 9, were killed yesterday in a school shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville (NYTimes gift link). Three adults were killed, as well — Mike Hill, Cynthia Peak, and Katherine Koonce.
Firearms are the #1 leading cause of death for children and teens in America, which makes zero sense. It’s depressing and maddening and disheartening to write yet another post about school shootings. Everyone I’m close to, no matter where they are in the country, is enraged — who here thinks this is okay? Who wants guns more than school safety? What is the thought process? What is the path forward? And are you fucking kidding me?
Here are a few things we can do, and the first one is important…
1. Don’t give up. It’s easy to feel demoralized, but we need to recognize that change is possible. “MASSIVE political and cultural changes regularly happen in this country, but movement never happened without friction and we have to work hard to get there,” writes attorney Emily Amick. “Tell people this when they get in the hopelessness spiral.”
2. Call or email your senators and representatives about two bills.
First, ask them to co-sponsor the Office of Gun Violence Prevention Act (H.R.1699 / S.951)., which will establish a permanent office to implement a long-term, data-based national strategy to end gun violence in the U.S. They’ll advance policy, expand state and local outreach, and maximize existing programs. All good things.
Second, ask them to do everything they can to make sure the Assault Weapons Ban (H.R.698 / S.25) becomes law. There is absolutely no reason regular people need to own assault weapons. The AR-15, with its “phenomenal lethality,” was made for combat in 1955 — yet it’s now the bestselling gun in the U.S. Why? Because of an intentional, sustained marketing strategy by the biggest gun companies. Here’s a helpful explainer on how it has become a powerful political and cultural symbol. (A Republican representative, Barry Moore of Alabama, introduced a bill in February to declare the AR-15 the “National Gun of America.”) Even after repeated mass killings involving the AR-15, Congress keeps failing to resurrect an assault weapons ban. “The protection of the AR-15 has become the number one priority for the gun lobby,” said Connecticut senator Chris Murphy, a vocal supporter of common-sense gun laws.
On the call, all you have to say is: “Hi, my name is NAME. I am a constituent; I live in CITY, and my zip code is ZIPCODE. I urge you to co-sponsor the Office of Gun Violence and Prevention Act, and I want to voice my support for the Assault Weapons Ban.” That’s all! The lawmakers’ offices tally up these calls, and it really, really helps when they get large numbers.
So, how do you contact your members of Congress? Each person has two state senators, and one representative, based on their zip code. To find your senators, put in your state here. To find your representative, put in your zip code here. FYI, calls are generally more effective than emails; try to call on weekdays; it’s okay to call after hours. And you want to call both people who agree with you (to thank them and keep pushing them) and people who don’t agree (to get in their faces for change). For New Yorkers, you can call Senator Chuck Schumer here and Senator Kristen Gillibrand here.
3. Post on social media. “Political movements are rooted in public support,” writes attorney Emily Amick. “That means every time there is a school shooting you NEED to post about it on social media. It’s not ‘just’ virtue signaling — it’s how political change happens.” Post on Instagram and Facebook, and tag your senators and representative. Tweet at them; leave comments on their Instagram posts. Make these important conversations snowball online.
4. Donate. We support Moms Demand Action (donate here) and Everytown (donate here), the largest gun violence prevention organization in America, with regular donations and encourage you to do the same, if you’re able. Please leave other recommendations of places to donate, in the comments.
5. Vote, vote, vote. The current Republican Party is institutionally against serious gun reform, so we need to vote them out. We should be passing common-sense gun laws; these days, instead, “kids are now formally trained to hide, barricade doors, fight, or run for their lives,” writes Zara Rahim. My friend’s son recently said that he doesn’t mind school shooter drills because it’s cozy in the closet. How do you hear that and not burst into tears?
6. Follow and engage with experts and organizations you trust. I recommend epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina’s newsletter, which covers topics like how to reduce gun violence and what you can do right now about firearms. You can learn from and volunteer for Moms Demand Action; here’s a podcast interview with the founder. And another way to help is to give blood, wherever you live.
What do you think? What would you add? We will keep moving forward together. Sending our deepest sympathies to the many, many people affected by gun violence. Take gentle care, and, as Anton recommends for hard days, “you can take a walk, just a nice plain walk.” xoxo
P.S. A surprising way to get kids to open up about feelings.
(Photo by David Rothschild/Stocksy.)