Keep Calling Congress if you want action on guns

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.

112 Days

It’s been 112 days since Newtown. In that time, NM legislator Daniel Ivey-Soto made sure that the NRA had their way and HB 77 got stuck in Committee and never got to the Governor’s desk (boy does NM need a Constitutional amendment to make the legislative session longer!), where she publicly stated it would be signed into law; Colorado, Connecticut, New York and Maryland passed some of the toughest gun safety laws in history (hooray for those brave legislators, who are true heroes); the US House of Representatives have a handful of bills, including one that would pierce the veil of gun manufacturer liability and let the lawyers loose to help put an end to this madness (see big tobacco); and the US Senate is poised to consider universal background checks and amendments for assault weapons and high capacity clips.

Over the past week, I or folks working on gun safety issues have met with or talked to staffers from Sen. Udall, Sen. Heinrich, and Rep. Lujan-Grisham.  In case you are keeping track of what your elected officials are doing in Washington as your reps, here’s the unofficial scorecard so far: none of them would commit to voting for, or even supporting any of the bills currently being considered, under the guise of: the 2nd Amendment (Udall), there isn’t anything to vote on yet (Heinrich), and these bills don’t have a chance in hell so why bother? (Lujan-Grisham).

I suggest you give them all a call and see if you can get better responses out of them and/or press them to take a stand for you, your family, your neighborhood, and your community:  Udall is at 202-224-5521, Heinrich is at 202-224-6621 (ask for Jude McCartin), and Lujan-Grisham is at 202-225-4176 (ask for John Shelby).

Be more water.

More Water

I took the 27families Safer New Mexico petition to the Roundhouse (the nickname of the NM Legislature) yesterday to present it to the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of the nearly 400 signatories, as the Committee was scheduled to hear HB 77, the Firearm Transfer Act, which will require universal background checks for all firearm purchases in New Mexico.  I was shocked, amazed, and somewhat dismayed at the sheer number of people who came to speak against it.  So many came against it that they had to hold the hearing on the House floor.

I know there is more support for this bill out there, but the supporters didn’t make as good a showing, at least in numbers at the hearing, nor apparently, calls and emails to the Committee members.  I think it was pretty clear that the opponents had the same old, non “terrific” arguments against it – it’s too expensive, Unconstitutional, overly burdensome, the Feds are already doing, its a gun tax, enforce existing gun laws, etc., etc. – the list of red herrings goes, and went, on and on.  And several of them were gun industry reps or otherwise protecting their economic interests. Meanwhile, the proponents had well-articulated, thoughtful, and passionate arguments for it – preventing suicides, really protecting children, keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, personal stories of shootings and deaths, clergy speaking, preventing mass shootings, etc., etc.  I told a story about a shooting on March 8, 2012 in Pittsburgh where a mentally ill man who had bought a gun without a background check from a private seller in New Mexico used that gun to shoot 7 people, killing one.  This law would have prevented that sale.  Sad that there are so many of these tragedies that nobody had any idea what shooting I was referring to, and honestly, I didn’t know about it until yesterday either.

But still, I think the numbers and the red herrings were enough to give the Committee members the cover they needed to lure one Democrat (shame on you Rep. Alcon!) into voting with the Republicans on the Committee and tie the vote, thereby stalling the Bill.  And the fear, and subsequent anger, from the opponents totally overwhelmed the love, and compassion of the proponents.  One opponent practically threatened to track down whoever voted for it.  I am not kidding when I say that you could feel the fear.

However, all is not lost, according to the URL at the bottom of this page.  Now I wouldn’t usually link to a NRA website, but this one lays it out pretty well and gives a good strategy for all of us, who care about community safety, to get off our arses and do something about this.  1 petition and a handful of speakers is not going to get this Bill passed.  Doing something like the NRA suggests, like inundating the legislators on the Committee with emails and many more phone calls, and especially showing up en masse to the hearing, is what it’s going to take.  We need to overcome the fear and hate with love and compassion.

“I believe that Dr. King would admit today that, if we think non-violence 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.

Let’s be more water.  Deep gassho.

http://www.nraila.org/legislation/state-legislation/2013/1/new-mexico-house-bill-77-stalls-in-house-committee-for-now!.aspx

Peace Party

“World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

via Peace Party.

Children’s Toys

I found this on the web and edited it slightly.  It goes right to the heart of some of our recent conversations, Credit goes to an org called The Peace Resource Center of San Diego.  Thanks to them.

 

WHAT WILL YOUR CHILDREN
LEARN FROM THEIR TOYS?
ASK YOURSELF THESE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
BEFORE YOU PURCHASE A TOY:

Is this an appropriate toy for a child?
What will your child learn from this toy?
Does this toy promote positive, cooperative play?
Does this toy teach your child values that you want
to encourage?

In play a child learns values and practices adult roles.
The toys that we choose for our children
communicate our own values and what we think is important.

Do we want our children to assume that we value violence
by letting them play with toys that promote, celebrate or depict violence?

Do we want our children to believe that we think that conflicts
are best resolved through force and violence,
or are there other values that we want to communicate?

27families meeting 1/15/13

A great first meeting.  Lots of great ideas and thoughtful sharing from a very passionate group of folks, coalescing around some central themes – peace, families, children, non-violence, volunteerism, education and schools, mediation, and problem solving.  And did I mention peace?  

On the gun issue, I think we decided that at least for now, we would rather be for something than against, and use our collective creativity more broadly.  Although we will continue to sign petitions and support efforts in this area, we wanted to focus our energy more on some other issues right here in our own backyards.

These are things we are for:

1. A neighborhood “Peace Party” that would bring people together around a central issue (guess which one) and then alot of the other action items and ideas we generated would fit in- toy gun buyback, petitions, fundraising, days of action, public investment in gun manufacturer divestment drive, recruiting volunteers for #2, etc.  And building community. And sharing the love.

2. Some form of local peace corps idea that would be trained and then train others in an ever-growing web of local volunteers sharing of peace, mediation, problem-solving skills, non-violence, mentoring, positive male role modeling, etc.

3. A Sandy Hook Promise-type of Family Peace Pledge that we all agree to draft, sign, and abide by (as best we can, with the purest of intentions), as a means of making peace happen in our own families, on a day-by-day basis, so that our actions ripple out into the community and the world, and we have a basis for initiating #2.

Happily, we all decided to meet again. There was some consensus on meeting on a Sunday afternoon next time.  Casa Cameron on February 24, 3-4:30 mtg with potluck to follow? Bring a peaceful dish to share.

Gassho.