Here we are, again, as a nation reeling from a devastating mass shooting that left many people dead, all because one man had access to guns. It's easy to feel like the country is stuck in this endless cycle of regular devastating shootings and there's nothing we can do about it. And it's true, in some sense, because until laws change, there's not much that we as citizens can do. But you can, at least, try to push for those laws to change faster by calling your representatives about gun control.
This time around, the shooting happened at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed. It is the 18th school shooting of 2018, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. Once again, the shooter was a man; once again, the gun was a semiautomatic rifle; once again, the shooter obtained that rifle legally, according to authorities, The New York Times reported.
"No laws were violated in the procurement of this weapon,” Peter J. Forcelli, the special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Miami, said, according to the Times. With that in mind, it's as good a time as any to call your representative in Congress and demand they enact some laws that would at least attempt to prevent yet another horrific shooting.
Logistically, calling Congress is very, very simple. All you have to do is dial up (202)-224-3121, which is the number for the Capitol switchboard. From there, you can tell the operator which representative you want to speak to — so, for instance, just say you want to talk to your senator from your state. It is important to note here that you can only talk to the politician who actually represents the place that you live. So if you want to call up Marco Rubio but you don't live in Florida, don't call up Marco Rubio. Each representative's calls are counted, but only calls from real constituents are included in that total. By calling Rubio without being a Rubio constituent, all you're doing is busying up the phone line for someone whose call can actually be counted.
Once you're on the line with the rep you want to send a message to, you'll likely be connected to an aide from their office of some sort. Be nice to them. They have to take these calls all day and they are not the ones out there making votes.
All that you have to do is tell them (politely!) that you want your senator/representative to know that you want to see votes and action on gun control. Add that you will be watching how they vote on gun control measures, and that those votes will impact how you vote in upcoming elections.
And exactly what kinds of laws can you specifically ask about while calling Congress? How about a ban on semiautomatic rifles? Or increased restrictions when it comes to background checks for gun purchases, a measure that a majority of Americans support? How about closing the gun show loophole so that only licensed sellers, who have to perform background checks, are able to sell guns? Or, you can get a little more specific with it, to address the cultures that often lead to gun violence. For instance, tell your representative that you want your state to have stricter restrictions that are well-enforced when it comes to domestic abusers owning guns. (And, to that end, demand that domestic abuse is taken more seriously.)
It's easy to feel helpless when a needless tragedy like this occurs, because when you're not someone who can make laws, there's not much you can do to prevent it from happening again. But as a citizen, you can influence your elected officials to make those laws — and they do pay attention to your calls. It's at least one actionable effort you can take when you start to feel powerless.