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We Did Not Sign Up for This…

Thank you to Shira Goodman, Executive Director of CeaseFire Pa for this thoughtful Op Ed piece, which was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In the wake of last week’s shooting in Alexandria, Va., targeting Republican congressmen and their staff on a baseball field, Rep. Mo Brooks (R., Ala.) said: “As with any constitutional provision in the Bill of Rights, there are adverse aspects to each of those rights that we enjoy as people. … And what we just saw here is one of the bad side effects of someone not exercising those rights properly.”

This is a completely wrong-headed and offensive analysis.

When did 92 American lives a day, 33,000 lives a year, become merely a “bad side effect”? When did being gunned down in a church, a movie theater, a first-grade classroom, a baseball field become simply a “bad side effect”?

To my mind, never. We did not sign up for this.

A small but powerful and well-moneyed gun lobby has tried to pull the wool over our eyes — the equivalent of the fast-talking, small-print recitation of side effects like dizziness, nausea, and hair loss on all those pharmaceutical commercials. But there’s a big difference: When I take a drug prescribed by my doctor, I do so aware and willing (if worried) to risk the side effects because of the promised benefit. To call the deaths of innocent people out living their lives a side effect of someone abusing a right is to declare their lives worth less than another person’s exercise of that right. That is unacceptable.

Somehow, we’ve become numb to the toll of gun violence and chalk it up as the cost of living in America. We’ve let the gun lobby elevate its talk of rights above what we know is right. Five people shot is not “a bad side effect of someone not exercising [their] rights properly.” It is a direct effect of lax laws that provide easy access to guns to people who should not have them.

Forty-nine people dead and 53 injured in a nightclub. Nine killed in a church. Twenty children and six teachers killed in a school. In Philadelphia, more than 140 homicides so far this year. These are not side effects. They are lives lost, dreams destroyed, families with holes in them, missed opportunities. And they are the direct result of allowing easy access to firearms.

What keeps me up at night is trying to figure out how to do more, how to bring about the seeming revolution we need so that what is known to all — that we have the right to be safe and to feel save where and when we work, learn, pray, and play — will actually become reality.

We’re not fighting a bad side effect. We are fighting a full-on public health crisis. And we know the path to a cure. What keeps me up at night is the worry that, as a nation, we’re looking at this all wrong. We need the will to act, and we need leaders with the courage to take action.

We must become single-issue voters. The other side is expert at it — they give no quarter. When an elected official dares to vote in a way unacceptable to the gun lobby, he or she is not given a pass. Every time an issue arises, the supporters of the gun lobby make their voices heard — they call, write, email, and visit constantly.

We must do the same. And here’s the truth — there are more of us. But we can’t cling to the idea of being a silent majority. Silence is unacceptable. Inaction is unacceptable.

We each have a voice and a vote, and we need to use them. And this is the message we need to send: If you are not part of the solution to the problem of gun violence, you are part of the problem.

Gun violence is the disease, not the side effect. We need to dedicate America’s talent, resources, genius, and sheer people power to curing this problem.

Interested in Finding Common Ground?

Gun Sense Chester County is dismayed and appalled by the tragic shooting of Congressmen and Capitol Hill Security officers in Alexandria Virginia earlier this week. Gun Sense fervently hopes for a speedy recovery for all.  This is an unfortunate example of the gun violence that occurs across our nation on a daily basis.

It is not news that we are in a very polarized political environment. Gun Sense believes our leaders can rise above the recurring pattern of rhetorical dart throwing to thoughtfully consider what might constitute a better path forward. Perhaps this event can lead to a calmer, more productive discussion about vital issues such as gun violence prevention.

Gun Sense Chester County believes substantial common ground already exists on key aspects of gun regulation and gun violence prevention. This common ground includes a significant majority of gun owners and non gun owners alike. It covers items such as:

  • Pre-purchase background check for all types of guns
  • Requiring licensing for concealed carry of guns, and
  • Continuing to have gun free school zones.

In the aftermath of the Alexandria shooting, some political figures have commented about reaching for “Common Ground” with statements like, “We must find a Common Ground way to discuss these key issues as a responsibility to our citizens”. We agree.

Finding “Common Ground” is a focal point and mission for Gun Sense Chester County. Identified areas of likely agreement will be developed, researched, presented to legislators and be communicated to the public for educational purposes.

Gun Sense Chester County welcomes all citizens, gun owners and non gun owners alike, to join in a respectful dialogue about the presence of guns in our society and ways to reduce the level of gun violence. Gun Sense operates in a nonpartisan manner and incorporates diverse viewpoints. Please consider joining. To do so, contact: gunsensecc@gmail.com

Looking for a Way to Make a Change?

We are very glad that the Congressmen and their security detail will be okay, following the shooting in Alexandria, VA by a man using an assault rifle and handgun. However, statistics show that it’s likely 93 other Americans will be killed by a gun today.  Almost twice that will be injured.

Even though the Congressmen will recover physically, some may suffer symptoms of post traumatic stress, which happens for many people who have been exposed to gun violence.

Tired of seeing these stories? Wondering how to make a change?

Gun violence prevention is a large and complex challenge. However, surveys consistently show there is significant existing common ground across gun owners and non gun owners alike.

This includes straight forward  items such as have a background check completed before every gun purchase.

Gun Sense Chester County is working to:

  • Educate our fellow citizens about current gun regulation and gun violence prevention;
  • Promote thoughtful dialogue to help our communities decide the appropriate path forward; and,
  • Encourage our elected officials to put in place regulations that already enjoy widespread support.

We were pleased to be with members of the Kennett Square community on Wednesday night and have an additional event in West Chester on Thursday, June 15.

  • Thursday, June 15 at 7:15 p.m. in West Chester, at Grove United Methodist Church, 490 W. Boot Road.  This workshop will help participants learn “Tips & Tactics for Engaging Elected Officials.”

Can’t make a meeting? Get on our mailing list by contacting us by email:

gunsensecc@gmail.com.

We CAN get to a better place around gun violence in the U.S.

YOU can help.  Please get in touch today.

In Case You Wonder Why…

Having conversations to share differing viewpoints on guns in our society is not easy.

If you need any reminder why it’s important for us to continue the work to reduce gun violence, please read the impactful story in the June 9 Washington Post: 12 Seconds of Gunfire

One startling statistic… “Beginning with Columbine 18 years ago, more than 135,000 students attending at least 164 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus, (Based on Washington Post analysis of online archives, state enrollment figures and news stories.)

One photo contained in the story powerfully conveys the tragedy… it’s of a young girl clinging to the inside of a window on the school bus that is taking her away from the scene of a fatal shooting. She is obviously in great distress.

The point of the story is that for these children there is no “taking them away…” the horror of the event lives with them forever.

Most of us feel distress when we hear of gun violence tragedies, particularly those at schools. As the adults… it’s up to us to translate those feelings into action.  THIS is why we keep talking, researching, and seeking to move forward on a path to reduce gun violence.

 

Come Together Right Now

Gun Sense Chester County members were pleased to join a sister gun sense group, Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy, for a National Gun Violence Awareness Day rally in Media on Friday night. The event was standing room only, and was attended by people young and old, of diverse ethnicity, activists and elected officials, pastors and poets.

The hundreds of orange clad participants then walked through the streets of Media. During our stroll, several teenage boys asked what types of things we stood for. We talked about wanting universal background checks before gun purchase and keeping guns out of schools (unless carried by trained law enforcement.)  One of the young men said, “That makes sense.”

Surveys show that over 70% of all Americans agree, that does indeed make sense.

Tragedy’s Shadow

Just why we came together for this event was tragically demonstrated when the Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland spoke of spending the early hours of the day with the grieving family of the City’s latest gun fatality, Zion Abdullah.

Zion, 16 years old, was shot at 7:50 a.m. on his way to school.  There were three other shooting incidents that same day.

Remarkably, Mayor Kirkland noted that it is easier for young people in his community to get a gun than a dictionary.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Chester Shootings

Gun violence is a large, complex issue. It requires thoughtful analysis, respectful conversation and committed cooperation among diverse groups.

The young man’s comment at the Media rally, “That makes sense,” echoes what we hear as we speak with ever more Chester County residents.

This gives us confidence that we can find a path forward together… recognizing that all citizens, gun owning and non gun owning, Republican and Democrat, young and old, can find a way forward together… reducing gun violence while also recognizing all citizen’s rights,

To paraphrase The Beatles, we need to, “come together, right now. ” We hope you will join us. It’s easily done… simply email us at gunsensecc@gmail.com.

Out & About in America

Beyond the typical tragic litany of gun violence victims this weekend, two other headlines appeared.  The first was a story about a Florida man driving down the highway shooting an AK-47 at other cars.

One other driver was injured, thankfully not seriously. Another car was also hit by the gunfire.

FL Man Shoots AK 47 While On Highway

The other headline was a Pennsylvania man being arrested at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. after law enforcement officials reportedly found a Bushmaster AR-15 assault-style gun and dozens of rounds of ammunition in his vehicle.

Authorities said officers acted on a tip and saw the weapon in plain view in the vehicle, which the driver had turned over the hotel valet. Police said a Glock 23 was also found in the glove box, with 90 rounds of ammunition.

Man Arrested for AR-15 at Trump D.C. Hotel

Clearly, some of our citizens are finding uses for semi-automatic assault style rifles beyond visiting the target range or hunting. Where will you see one next?

One Conversation, One Step at a Time

We were pleased to be with residents from the Kennett Square area on May 25th for our “Guns around Town” presentation. It’s always interesting to hear what brings people to the event and to learn about their experiences and perspectives.

I got talking with someone who described themselves as a gun owner and National Rifle Association member. Interestingly, they said they could support virtually all of the legislative items we had covered during the presentation. This included universal background checks before gun purchase, keeping guns out of the schools (unless carried by trained law enforcement or security personnel) and continuing restrictions on gun silencers. The participant’s comment reinforced the polling statistics we had presented, which showed a high level of support among gun owners for these types of policies.

This conversation is a perfect example of why Gun Sense Chester County promotes “building bridges” as part of our efforts. There IS substantial common ground among gun owners and non gun owners alike as to what represents common sense regulation.

Now, we just need to convince our elected officials to pass those regulations.  To achieve that, we need to all join together… those who would prefer to never hold a gun to those who are gun enthusiasts, to make our wishes known. Unfortunately, gun owners have been told by some Second Amendment advocacy groups not to trust what they describe as “gun control gun grabbers.” (For the record, Gun Sense Chester County does not seek to take away anyone’s gun who is a lawful owner. We do encourage responsible ownership practices such as securing the gun in in a locked storage area within the home.)

Each open, respectful conversation we have helps build understanding and trust. Hopefully this will help members of the gun owning community who agree with some additional regulations to feel comfortable that talking with their elected officials to make some changes will not result in a complete loss of gun rights in the U.S.  We are building toward this understanding and trust one conversation, one step, at a time.

On this Memorial Day Weekend, we thank current members of our armed forces and veterans for being willing to take up arms in the service of our country. We owe you a great debt.

Ann Colby-Cummings, Chairperson