On Saturday, March 24, we walked our dog – as usual. Made coffee – as usual. Got on the bus toward downtown St. Paul, transferred to a packed light rail at University Avenue, got off near the Minnesota State Capitol – not as usual. People hemorrhaged from the light rail cars, flowed as a river of citizens toward the Capitol grounds where others already stood waiting for the students who marched from Harriet Island, through downtown, to the Capitol.
We listened to person after person after person step up to the microphone on the Capitol steps to talk about gun violence and how to end it. Twenty thousand of us heard teenagers talk about school shootings, about losing friends, about being afraid. We heard them ask why adults who have the power to vote, the power to enact laws, would leave children fearing for their lives everywhere they went while honoring the NRA’s demands. While allowing the rights of individual gun owners and gun manufacturers to take precedence over the collective rights of people to live lives free from gun violence. One 22-year-old man spoke of his father’s death; a disgruntled employee killed him in his own place of business. He spoke of the need to address gun violence on many levels, not just in schools. One of Minnesota’s own state representatives borrowed Emma Gonzales’ quote, “I call bullshit”, in his own speech about stalled efforts in our state legislature to address gun violence, got the crowd to chant it.
Four students, two girls and two boys, and one parent, a dad, from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were in town for a hockey event. They marched with Minnesota students and supporters, and they also spoke from our Capitol steps. They spoke of losing friends, hiding in closets and classrooms while a shooter destroyed lives, and having to decide which friend’s funeral to attend because they couldn’t go to all of them. One 14-year-old freshman girl punctuated her speech with tears and sniffles, and yet her voice grew stronger as she finished speaking. There was no one on the Capitol grounds who wasn’t moved to tears by these survivors.
That events like this were going on all over the country is hopeful. But the students who spoke, who led this March for Our Lives, are very clear that the march was only the beginning of what needs to be done. They asked us to get on social media, to use whatever platforms we have to keep this issue in front of people, to keep hammering the need for change as a counter to the NRA, to our own president and other elected officials. They begged us to vote out those who would choose guns over kids.
I am happy to do that. I grew up with guns in the house. But guns in a home are far more likely to be used as weapons for suicide or homicide than they are for protection. A home with a gun is not safer than one without a gun. On average, 96 Americans are killed with guns EVERY DAY. And for every one person killed, two more are injured. So, let’s do a little math: that translates into a potential total of 3,744 American gun deaths in the 39 days from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting to the March for Our Lives. That translates to a potential 7,488 gun-related injuries in that same time period in the United States. It is appalling that our country has 25 times the average gun homicide rate as other high-income countries. Twenty-five times.
No wonder Emma Gonzales called bullshit. If other countries can figure this out, then we have no excuse.
This revolution is about stopping gun violence. It is about lives being more important than lethal weapons. It is about choosing the collective good over the desires of individuals. It is about understanding that most gun deaths are not the result of mass shootings, but mass shootings are one possible by-product of poor gun control and poor mental health services. It is about understanding the Second Amendment as it applies to the military, not our homes. It is about understanding that arming teachers is not a solution.
When we got home from the Minnesota march, we turned on CNN and were in time to see some of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students step up to the microphone at the Washington D.C. March for Our Lives. We saw Emma Gonzales stand at the microphone to speak, then stand in silence until her timer went off after being on stage for six minutes and twenty seconds, the time it took the shooter in her school to kill seventeen people and injure more. We watched her tears roll down her cheeks while she kept her composure and her voice.
Emma Gonzales is one of the bravest people in our country right now. She and her fellow student activists know that guns don’t die – kids do.
We all do.
Wondering where I got my statistics? Here are some resources:
And please vote: