When I was a kid and asked the question, what are you most afraid of, I would apprehensively answer that I was afraid of being shot. While other kids answered the dark, or spiders, or heights, I was afraid of guns. My answer was often met with a look of disbelief and a sort of, “come on, be real” response, because being shot was a ridiculous notion for someone growing up in a suburban, somewhat rural, community. And yet, today, my fear isn’t so farfetched.
As someone who works on state level public policy, I am quite aware of the variables that impact if, why, and how a law is crafted, moved through the process, and eventually passed or not. So, when politicians and those opposing gun reforms make blanket statements as if nothing can be done about the epidemic of mass shootings, it makes me angry, because it’s just untrue.
Lawmakers have been using a public health approach to policy making to address a number of issues– drunk driving, cigarette smoking–for decades, and although it hasn’t eliminated the problems entirely, it has had significant positive impacts. We can also look to the experiences of other states and countries, as we often do when crafting public policy, and see that you can reduce gun violence by enacting sensible reforms. So, don’t tell us that nothing can be done. That’s just not true.
But what angers me more than dishonest political discourse is the anger I feel as a mother. As a mom with two young children, ages 3 and 6, my once irrational fear is our new reality. I am angry that I work tirelessly to protect my children and ensure that they are safe and healthy, each and every day, and because the people we have elected to lead us are beholden to money and perceived “power” the likelihood that my children and I could be shot down at the movies, in the mall, anywhere… continues to rise.
Unfortunately, for many children and families living in urban communities, gun violence has been their reality for far too long. Although the violence looks different than mass shootings, the impact of gun violence on individuals and communities is just as devastating. I am sick of hearing about another shooting in a nearby city or seeing the CNN alert on my phone that there is an active shooter on another campus. I want our elected representatives to do something to curb the epidemic of gun violence that is taking the lives of our fellow Americans.
I want my children to fear bugs and ghosts, not guns.