Every day in the United States, more than 90 people die as a result of gun violence. For every person who is killed, two more are shot and survive. The effects of gun violence are devastating, lifelong, and irreversible.
I am growing increasingly exasperated each day that the gun violence epidemic in this country isn’t staggering enough to warrant action to reduce gun violence from the leaders of our nation.
On Nov. 5, at a small Texas church in Sutherland Springs, 26 parishioners were killed and at least 20 more were injured. Among those shot were several children.
The number 26, combined with knowing that children were among those who were killed in this senseless act of violence, is especially gut wrenching for me. On December 14, 2012, my mom survived the shooting at Sandy Hook School in which 26 people — 20 six- and seven-year-olds and six educators — were murdered.
It brings flashbacks of that horrific day flooding back.
Flashbacks of my mom recounting the sound of gunshots in a nearby hallway.
Flashbacks of listening to her convey how, with the help of two staff members, she barricaded her class of 18 fourth graders in a closet to keep them safe from the gunman.
Flashbacks of her buckling to the ground after reading the names of all who had been killed.
Flashbacks of attending 13 of the 26 funerals with her.
I know now that the community in Sutherland Springs will grapple with these same horrific things, and more, as it will try to find its path to healing in the aftermath of this tragic act of violence.
In the coming days, elected officials will offer their hollow thoughts and prayers as they skirt around the topic of legislation that might prevent the next shooting. As if to illustrate this point, President Trump said in a news conference on Monday that it was “a little bit soon” to discuss meaningful action to reduce gun violence and that the shooting was a “mental health problem at the highest level.”
Allow me to break down all the problematic parts of this pathetic response:
First, there is no such thing as “too soon” to talk about gun violence, there is only “too late.” It was too late last month in Las Vegas when 58 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded; it was too late when my mother heard 20 of her students and six of her colleagues shot and killed in their elementary school; and it is too late today, after 26 people were gunned down in their church and more than 20 others were injured.
Second, it is unbelievably irresponsible to shoulder the blame of those who commit acts of gun violence wholly onto those with mental illness. It:
- Perpetuates stigmatization of mental health issues,
- Disregards the fact that those with mental illness are far more likely to be the target of violence rather than perpetrators and,
- Wrongly suggests that easy access to guns is inconsequential to increased incidents of gun violence (when we know that our gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than the average of other developed nations).
Finally, this response ignores the critical facts about gun violence as a whole, including the fact that the majority of mass shootings are acts of domestic violence, which was tragically the case with the shooting in Sutherland Springs.
Thoughts and prayers were not enough to save the innocent lives senselessly taken Sunday in a house of worship.
This isn’t a partisan issue. Americans shouldn’t have to worry about being shot outdoors at concerts, movie theaters, elementary schools, nightclubs, and churches.
We have to reject the NRA’s stronghold on politicians in Congress and statehouses to demand better gun laws.
Thoughts and prayers were not enough to save the innocent lives senselessly taken Sunday in a house of worship. They won’t be enough to keep this from happening again if they aren’t accompanied by meaningful action to reduce gun violence by the citizens of this nation and our elected officials.
In addition to offering your thoughts and prayers, I invite you to join me by calling Congress and telling them to #RejectTheNRA and its radical agenda. Text REJECT to 64433 to call Congress right now.
Ashley Cech is the daughter of Sandy Hook School librarian Yvonne Cech and a program associate at Everytown for Gun Safety.