Just Do It — Today

Thoughts adapted from a Letter to the Editor of the Daily Local News:

On Monday we awoke to news of yet another tragic mass murder. How many times do we go through this before we demand our elected officials change gun laws?

While Gun Sense Chester County is not “anti gun” we are for common sense gun regulation. The permissiveness of gun purchase and carry regulations has gone well beyond the bounds of common sense.

And as we sit here absorbing yet another mass gun murder…

Today, the National Rifle Association is working to pass Federal law making it easier to purchase gun silencers. (House of Representatives Bill 3668)

Today, the NRA is working to overturn a Maryland regulation banning the sale of semi-automatic rifles.

And, today, you are…?  

I am sure the words sad, upset, frustrated and more may come to mind. The truth is, those words without action are not going to change anything.

If you think we need to find a different path forward — call and tell your elected officials. Do it TODAY.

And then, watch how they vote on gun related issues.

If you give us your email, we’ll be happy to keep you informed. (gunsensecc@gmail.com)

Join us at our meeting Tuesday, Oct 3 at 7:15 p.m. at 10 W. Pleasant Grove Rd., West Chester 19382 (Westminster Presbyterian Church) if you’d like to share your thoughts about this tragedy and learn more about about gun violence and gun regulation issues.

The meeting is free and open to all.


Why We Do the Work

     On Saturday I joined a number of Gun Sense Chester County members in attending a Rally and Memorial to the Lost, sponsored by Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence. The Memorial was set up to remember the over 50 Chester County residents lost to gun violence in the past decade.  Three of those people were murdered this past summer.
     Two women who have lost young adult children to gun murder spoke. It was impossible not to be touched by what they had to say.
    One was Michelle Roberson, the mother of Bianca Roberson, age 18, who was killed in West Goshen in June.  The other was Movita Johnson-Harrell, of Lansdale.
     Michelle shared that her beautiful Bianca was about to head off to college on a full merit scholarship, after years of her mom urging her to aim high. Bianca had earned honor roll grades in high school. As Michelle said, “It is impossible to express the pain of losing a child in this manner.”
    Movita talked about her son Charles, who was murdered in a case of mistaken identity. Movita and her husband Yancy had moved their family out of Philadelphia to escape the city’s gun violence after their sons came home and reported they knew nine young men who had been murdered.
     The night he was murdered, Charles was at a party looking for his sister to help ensure her safety.
     No mother, no father, no sister, brother or friend should have to experience this type of loss.
     To my way of thinking, there is a big difference between allowing gun purchase for hunting and gun sports and looking the other way while illegal guns flow through our streets and we permit concealed gun carry to become commonplace — which enables a moment of anger at another motorist to become gun murder.
      As we have said many times, we are not anti-gun and we do know there are many, many responsible gun owners. However, we are concerned that we are, as a society, treating guns as if it’s okay for them to be casually purchased and used.
     Here are a few reasons why we have that concern:
  • When our state allows citizens to purchase as many guns as they want on any one day, it enables “straw purchase” fueling illegal distribution.
  • When our state allows gun purchase with NO education and NO safety training, it sends a signal that this is a casual purchase decision, easily and quickly made.  In fact it is a decision to purchase a lethal weapon with  the ability to quickly kill another human being.
  • When our state uses a “shall issue” approach to concealed carry permitting, it makes it relatively easy to get the permit and carry a concealed, loaded handgun into restaurants, parks, churches…and YOUR home, unless the business or you post a sign that guns are not allowed.

I sometimes hear “Second Amendment” defenders say following a gun tragedy, “Well that only affects a small number of people.”

     I have a hard time understanding this thinking. Each person killed or maimed has a mother, father, sisters, brothers and friends who spend the rest of their lives mourning them. I wonder if the person saying “it’s only a small number” would feel the same if it was their loved one who was killed.
     “My life was changed forever that day,” said Movita Johnson-Harrell, “and it will never be the same again.”
     Can we continue to hear these cries of anguish and do nothing?
Ann Colby-Cummings
There is an open meeting of Gun Sense Chester County on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 10 W. Pleasant Grove Rd., West Chester 19382beginning at 7:15 p.m.  Please join us. 

Balancing Rights and Sensible Regulation

This week saw yet another school shooting, this one in Washington State. The Washington Post published an interesting commentary discussing the warning signs that are often present before these types of shootings occur.
Unfortunately, our current system does not afford law enforcement the ability to remove guns before a tragedy might occur in many of these types of situations.
We understand that this is complicated.  The entire issue of balancing Second Amendment rights and sensible gun regulation is complicated.
If we are to make progress, we must be willing to explore these issues and have thoughtful discussions about what approaches might work.
Gun Sense Chester County has an open meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 10 W. Pleasant Grove Road, W. Chester 19382 (Westminster Presbyterian Church.) If you’re interested in learning more about our group and our approach, or simply sharing your thoughts about how to achieve a balance of Second Amendment rights and sensible gun regulation, we encourage you to attend.
If you want to understand the effect gun violence has on Chester County, join us at a Rally and  walk to the Memorial for the Lost on Sat. Sept. 23 from 1 – 3 p.m. The event will begin at the United Methodist Church, 129 S. High Street, West Chester 19382. We will hear brief remarks on gun violence and then walk to the Calvary Lutheran Church on S. New Street to view the Memorial.  (Co-sponsored with Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence.)
Tragically, since we started planning this event earlier this summer, three names have been added to the Memorial list.  Gun violence hits home even here in Chester County.

Tragically, Here We Are… Again

Fatal Shooting in West Goshen – Neighbor vs Neighbor

It has been a tough summer. Reports have just hit the media that there was a fatal shooting in a neighbor vs. neighbor dispute in West Goshen early in the morning of August 8.

This follows the fatal shooting of Bianca Roberson in late June, also in West Goshen. Cornell Thompson, age 22, was shot and killed in Coatesville August 1.

We believe it is vitally important that our citizens:

  • Understand current gun laws
  • Consider the implications of those laws
  • Determine if those laws protect the rights of gun owners and non gun owners alike, and foster a culture that emphasizes the rights and responsibilities of gun ownership

We MUST come together and have a conversation reflecting diverse viewpoints on the presence of guns in our homes and communities.

  • Are we doing enough to monitor gun purchases?
  • Are those who own guns knowledgeable about their safe handling and maintenance?
  • Do our laws serve to protect those who choose to NOT own guns as well as protecting the rights of those who do?

All good questions. Please join us in identifying equally good answers.



Good Advice – Inquire about Presence of Weapons Before Approving Playdate

The July 31 “Dear Abby” column, published in the Daily Local News and numerous other newspapers, has a good discussion encouraging parents to ask about the presence of guns before sending their children to play at another family’s house.


A Pew Research Center study published in June found that 30% of gun owners with children in the home report there are guns loaded, unlocked and easily accessible at all times.

This issue is too important to ignore because of perceived awkwardness in discussing it.

If you’d like some tips on how to handle that conversation, Moms Demand Action has a “Be Smart” program with some good tips.Be Smart Program


A Sad Day for Chester County

Dear Friends,

We are heartbroken by the tragedy of a gun homicide involving Bianca Nikol Roberson, a beautiful 18-year old girl who recently graduated from West Chester’s Rustin HIgh School.

Daily Local News: Road Rage Shooting

While driving in West Goshen Township,  Bianca was shot and killed by another motorist, apparently as part of a road rage incident.

It is human nature to try to rationalize why this would never happen to us or one of our loved ones.

In our own effort to make meaning of this, our initial thought was to urge people to choose behaviors that would de-escalate potential conflict; to remain calm and back away when anger or aggression is directed at you. We must remember there is always a reasonable possibility others are carrying a loaded gun.

However, sending this message might imply that Bianca did something wrong or for some reason “deserved it”, which is a deplorable thought.

Our prayers are with Bianca’s family.

Perhaps we also need to be praying for our society — a culture that is undergoing significant changes. One in which we need to evaluate every situation as a potential source of gun violence. A tragic day for many reasons.


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.