The thing that keeps me awake at night is the thought that a kid who is alive tonight might not be alive tomorrow night because they cross paths with somebody with a gun. This is obviously not an irrational fear – it happened at my school.
People like Wayne LaPierre, Dana Loesch and Donald Trump have sold the narrative that life is irredeemably dark and “they” – the faceless and nonexistent bogeymen – are coming for your guns. All evidence to the contrary, the president stated at this year’s NRA convention that the Second Amendment is under siege. By this line of reasoning, the only way to keep your family safe is to turn your house into an armory. The sad part is, that messaging works: Stockpiling has increased by about one hundred million guns in the past decade. If more guns made us safer, the United States, with over 340 million guns – more than the total population of the U.S. – would be the safest country in the world. But the President has it all mixed up; the Second Amendment has us under siege.
All members of Congress, who have an obligation to look out for public safety, should be morally outraged by the gun violence that rages in our streets, schools, churches and workplaces. What causes all this senseless violence? Is there a certain video game or movie only Americans have access to? Ah yes, the answer: Far too many officials care more about their powerful friends in the gun lobby than actually voting for the well-being of their constituents. “Stop that, Hogg. You are besieging the Constitution.” The classic comeback against dissent.
The NRA, as an organization (not the individual members), takes pleasure in attacking grieving kids who have survived a mass murder. That befuddled gun-runner, Ollie North, recently called my friends and I “civil terrorists.” We are nothing but school kids pitted against the most powerful lobby in the country. The NRA and politicians that are funded by them are being exposed; the young people can see through the lies that we’ve been force-fed for years.
After February 14th of this year, my friends and I were filled with pain. To realize your community will forever be struggling, your school reduced to a statistic, is utterly heartbreaking. As angry as we are, though, we will never stoop to the NRA’s level; we will never be cruel, because hate never wins. Slick propaganda and professional liars might oppose us, but we gun violence survivors want to convert our pain into action. No one else should experience what we did.
This debate will always have sides, but it is important to find something constructive to offer, even amid strong disagreement — something like behavioral intervention programs like Ceasefire or Cure Violence that have lowered violent crime rates by 70 percent in some neighborhoods. And young activists must realize the assets we have at our disposal to help in the fight ahead. One thing we’ve realized is that anger, while sometimes useful to get the ball rolling, will only get you so far. In this guerilla war, the people preaching hate are slow and untrained, especially when it comes to social media. Don’t be afraid to stand up to them.
But give them truth, give them humor, give them your self-awareness. Most importantly, give them love.
To see how you can get involved, visit marchforourlives.com.