Having spent some time this past New Mexico legislative session working on gun safety bills that ultimately failed and then more recently doing the same and disappointedly watching the U.S. Congress make some cowardly votes to not enact gun reform laws, it is easy to get cynical and feel like nothing will change.
Personally, I am hopeful that the backlash from those shameful votes in the New Mexico Roundhouse and in the U.S. Congress will result in universal background checks and a real ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
To me, this is a watershed moment, a time to be optimistic, a time similar to when Ralph Nader changed the automobile industry and Big Tobacco finally had to admit its lies. Neither of those events that brought “too big to change” industries to their knees happened overnight, neither happened without a fight and neither happened without public involvement.
Gun laws are only going to change if you participate in this democracy to the same extent that gun rights supporters do.
If you care about gun safety and protecting your community and your family, you need to make your voice heard. You must talk to your friends and family and educate them on this issue, and then join them in calling, writing and meeting with your mayors, your city councilors, your state representatives, the governor, your U.S. senators and representatives, the president.
They need to know that if they won’t change the laws, you will act to elect women and men of conscience who will act on behalf of their constituents who vote for them, not their financial backers who pay for them.
All of your elected officials need to hear from you and know that this issue is important to you and that the legacy of Newtown is that we will do everything in our power to ensure that there is never another Newtown.
You have to put your money and your time where your mouth is and donate both to the several advocacy groups that have sprung up since James Brady and Gabrielle Giffords were shot and since that tragic day in Newtown, Conn.
Those in power need to know that this issue is more pressing than any other: more so than health care, than the environment, than Social Security, than education, than the budget. Why? Because you cannot enjoy any of these other things if you are dead from a bullet wound.
Somewhere along the line, our elected officials need to realize, because we told them so, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are more central, more important, more fundamental and more critical to us than the right to bear arms.
Nobody, children nor adults, should fear being in a public place, going to school, or going to a movie. We need to overcome fear and hate with love and compassion. And more water.
“I believe that Dr. (Martin Luther) King would admit today that, if we think nonviolence isn’t working, it’s like pouring a bucket of water on a burning house. If a bucket of water doesn’t put out a burning house, it doesn’t mean that water doesn’t put out fire. It simply means that we need more water.”
– Dr. Dorothy Cotton, colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.