COMMENTARY: If you are reading this, it’s happened again — another shooting that breaks our hearts. A 4-year-old girl shot in the head over road rage.
As I originally type this, just a few days after the Umpqua Community College shooting, the conversations are ongoing, as I am sure they are now. Talk of background checks and mental health issues are filling airtime on cable, and you’re hard-pressed to find a cat video in your Facebook newsfeed because the conversation continues there.
The politicians have all tweeted their prayers and sent their thoughts, and for many, that’s enough.
It’s all so predictable. The stats — 33,169 killed by guns last year. How many are children who are killed or injured? A recent study found that at least three children a day under 15 are seen in emergency rooms for gun-related injuries.
Do we even know how many guns are in this country? At least one in three Americans own at least one gun. Which state has the highest gun death rate? Alaska. Which has the lowest? That would be Hawaii.
New Mexico as of this writing has the 11th highest.
What is said is equally predictable: The calls for bans on nearly all types of guns, semi-automatics, and handguns. The call for universal background checks, for greater mental health care. The pushback is that guns are our inalienable right, guaranteed by the Constitution, that only the bad guys will own guns if we dare regulate them.
The problem is, none of the solutions alone will reduce the toll guns are taking. It’s a complex issue that will require a number of steps before it is resolved.
The right to own a gun is not entirely absolute either. Justice Scalia, in writing the Heller vs. Washington D.C. opinion, made it clear that the decision, which did affirm the individual right to own a gun, still allowed for regulation.
Somehow, someway, we hope all this will lead to a solution, but it never does. Why? Well perhaps it’s because we keep expecting the federal government to come up with and implement solutions.
It’s time we came to the realization that’s not going to happen. They’ve given it their best shot, after Newtown, and come up empty. When one looks at the rate at which incumbents are returned to Congress, it’s fairly plain to see that this issue isn’t going to be revisited any time soon.
Learning from another movement
So where does this leave us? On the whole, both sides of the aisle want a solution, but how do we move the dial? How do we actually do something instead of talking?
We take a page out of the marriage-equality movement. They knew that they would never succeed at the federal level, so they went state by state. Does it work? Yes. They completely changed the conversation, and met their goals using this strategy.
It’s doesn’t matter where you stand on marriage equality — you have to admit it worked.
So here is what we do. Buttonhole your state senator when you see him at the club. Speak up to your representative at the grocery store. Email the governor, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general. Contact information is provided in this column.
Tell them what you think will be a step in the right direction, and don’t ask — demand that they make reducing gun deaths in New Mexico a priority.
Encourage your friends and family in other states to take the same approach. Be positive, and bipartisan.
The reality is that the solutions are a combination of everyone’s ideas. Protecting constitutional rights and reducing gun deaths are not, and never have been, mutually exclusive.
Don’t let this conversation die down this time. Too many lives depend upon it.
All of us, left and right, can make New Mexico, and, state-by-state, our nation a safer place to live. It all begins with us.
Anderson, of Farmington, is a past Democratic Party county officer and member of the party’s state central committee. She has been active in several political campaigns. Today she follows politics avidly as a concerned citizen.