The senseless tragedy and loss of innocent lives at Sandy Hook shocked a nation. But in the ensuing months it was also a call to action. For those who have children, it roused the most primal of parental instincts: to protect what they treasure most dearly — their children. So a new, committed, inspired and perhaps unexpected, proponent of sensible gun laws was born: mothers. The impetus behind their call to action is simple: love.
Love for a child is a great humanizing and equalizing factor in our country; it is non-partisan. Whatever our differences — rich or poor, republican or democrat, urban or suburban, black or white — parents are passionate about wanting what is best for their offspring. From the moment children are born, parents dream of their child’s future, work hard so they can have more than the previous generation, play with them to see them smile, nurse them when they are sick, watch them grow and change and marvel as they blossom.
Parents mindfully guard against myriad harms in order to keep their babies safe and happy and healthy. They buy sunblock and car seats, make them eat broccoli and apples, tell them not to talk to strangers and to look both ways as they cross the street. They do hundreds of things each day — some small, some big — all to keep children safe. On occasion parents fall short of an intended mark — inevitably, there are cut knees, bad colds, accidents and diseases, and sometimes in the worst case, a child is lost. But even though parents know they cannot prevent every hurt, they remain vigilant because the caution staves away the worst of their fears.
In the same way, moms across the country have galvanized their love for their kids and put that powerful emotion to work to demand sensible gun control laws. For example: in Massachusetts, over 1,000 moms work with Mom’s Demand Action, a grassroots organization formed after the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
Started by an Indiana mother of five, the group has nearly 100 chapters nationally and has gathered social media steam on Facebook and twitter.
Other groups, such as Mayors Against Gun Violence, have recognized the sheer force of parental love and are harnessing that energy to expand efforts to stem gun violence. Together they have formed Everytown Against Gun Violence.
These groups has met with senators and representatives to let them know that they support the legislation being sought by President Obama and state legislative counterparts. Limitations on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, requiring full background checks for weapon purchasers, making mental health records more accessible and cohesive and closing the loopholes for private sales of weapons are the changes sought. These legislative amendments to the current laws are practical and workable ways to create a less harmful environment to nurture families.
The sensible gun laws suggested have the capability to reduce the loss of childrens’ lives and are just another step that parents can demand to keep children safe. It is not a panacea nor is it a magic formula that will end every violent or potentially deadly situation. But it will reduce the chances of harm befalling one child, or twenty children, or any of the nearly 3,000 children that die each year from gun violence.
In the ensuing months since December 14, 2012, arguments about many things have permeated the media: Republican stances and Democratic viewpoints; filibusters; debates on the intended meaning of the Second Amendment; and other partisan volleying. Amidst all that background noise and political posturing, the fundamental question of how to keep children safe is being muffled.
Parents cannot allow this critical child welfare issue to be reduced to a whisper.
Gun violence affecting children and schools continues unabated: according to everytown.org, as of May 2014 there have been at least 71 school shootings since Sandy Hook. Just two weeks ago in California, six people, most of them college students, were killed in a California campus town, the latest victims of gun violence affecting children.
Parents must say enough is enough. Collectively, love and empathy for the senseless gun death of any child could create a roar that demands an end to the madness of gun violence. To be heard though, requires action. Call a senator, write a letter, learn more about what the legislation proposed really seeks, or join a group that wants to keep children safe.
As a member of Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group formed in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, I join with thousands of other moms in asking Congress and our states for laws that will reduce the chance of harm befalling any of our families. The love for our children, and all the children affected by this violence from Sandy Hook to Isla Vista, demands nothing less.
Lisa Perez Tighe has been an attorney, writer and a professor. She attended the University of Notre Dame and New York University School of Law. A native of the Bronx, Lisa currently resides outside of Boston with her husband and four children.