On Friday, October 2nd, just one day after a gunman on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, killed nine people and injured several others, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash took to her Facebook page, calling on readers to sign a petition urging the White House to reinstate the 1994 federal ban on assault weapons. That call to action touched off widespread debate from the singer-songwriter's Facebook followers, with Cash writing an additional post calling for commenters to be more respectful of other's opinions.
The first of Cash's writings came just hours after the massacre, which was reportedly the 264th mass shooting of the year (on the 274th day of 2015). In her original post, Cash wrote, "If you are as sick of gun violence in this country as I am, then let's stop talking about it and just do ONE simple thing."
Cash explained that the petition was created by her daughter, Chelsea Crowell (a contributor for Rolling Stone Country), and would require 100,000 signatures for it to be reviewed. As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition has nearly 3,600 signatures. That initial post from Cash received thousands of "likes" and was quickly shared by Facebook users — it also spawned hundreds of comments representing all sides of the thorny issue. The following day, Cash posted a link to a New York Times essay on gun control, which was accompanied by her own comment that read, "I feel as strongly and as passionately about this issue as all of you, but I won't stoop to insults. Please, do unfollow or unlike if you can't maintain basic courtesy."
By Sunday morning, Cash had clearly had enough of the negative comments, posting another link to an essay on the issue and telling fans and followers, "This is my page and I do have a right to my beliefs and convictions, as all of you do. I was raised to have the courage to stand behind those convictions and it's too late in life for me to sacrifice my integrity by keeping the most passionate of them secret. Those who tell me to 'stay out of politics and stick to music,' or, in other words 'keep your mouth shut,' are perhaps so obsessed with the Second Amendment that they haven't noticed the First."
The singer and activist, who for a decade served on the board of PAX, an organization dedicated to preventing gun violence among children, added, "I have as much concern for the safety of my children as any mother alive and if that makes me 'political,' so be it. I don't hurl insults because I think some of you have a bewildering attachment to military-grade weapons and a refusal to consider mandatory background checks. I'd appreciate the same civility."
While serving as a representative of PAX, Cash attended the 2000 Million Moms March on Washington, D.C., penning an essay in Rolling Stone about that experience.
"At the end of the day, my friend Patty Smyth, who marched alongside me with Bette Midler, Emmylou Harris, Raffi and many, many more, said, 'If nothing else, we helped carry the burden of the grieving mothers for one day,'" she wrote in the Facebook post. "I was full of expectation that our elected officials would rise to the occasion and enact basic gun safety legislation like background checks, safety locks and a ban on military-grade weapons. It turned out that, in fact, all we did was help carry the burden for a day. Nothing changed."
Explaining that she eventually left the PAX board (which has since merged with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence) after "ten years of meeting grief-stricken parents of children killed by guns," the mother of four also revealed that her daughter Chelsea had once been held up at gunpoint while working in a jewelry store.
Cash closed the lengthy post writing, "If one classroom of first graders can be saved just by requiring background checks and a ban on military style weapons, wouldn't it be worth it? One teenager in a movie theater, one student nurse, one pastor in the pulpit, one little pre-schooler? If the answer is no, or the answer is just more vicious rhetoric, then we should be ashamed. That child could be yours. It was almost mine. So don't tell me to keep my mouth shut."