Monday, December 17, 2012

A Post-Sandy Hook Letter to My Congressmen


Dear Congressman [name],

In response to the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I am writing to ask you to support increased restrictions on gun ownership—particularly high capacity weapons and ammunition, and increased federal funding to support public health efforts to reduce gun violence.

I am ashamed that it has taken me so long to write this letter.  In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, I have tried to reconstruct a list of people I know who have been killed or injured by guns.  This is a partial list: a young woman shot by her former boyfriend on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston in 1990, a friend who survived a violent crime perpetrated by a 15-year-old gunman, a death by suicide at the University where I was a student, a seemingly random shooting of a graduate student at that same University, a co-worker who was murdered in Baltimore in 2011.  As someone who has lived in Chicago and Baltimore and worked with children, I know many children who have lost a relative or friend to gun violence.  Twenty-four Chicago Public School students were murdered with guns during the last school year.  319 were shot and injured.  Those children bear more than their share of suffering, often without the comfort of grief counseling.

As the mother of a young child, my beloved [LB], I am horrified by the loss of life at Sandy Hook, by the deaths of children in a place that should be safe and nurturing.  I also realize that many more children die, many more people die, by guns wielded by their own family members, or by guns that are a byproduct of narco-trafficking in the United States.  I realize that I have become numb to this violence.  I have accepted life in a violent society, rather than fighting against it.  I should have sent this letter years ago, because I know the sorrow that gun violence causes for children, for parents, for people.

Galen Gibson, who was killed in the school shooting at Simon’s Rock in 1992, was the friend of a friend although we never met.  An editorial written by Galen’s father, Gregory, appeared in the New York Times on December 14.  Mr. Gibson came to the devastating conclusion, after years of public advocacy on issues of gun violence, that we, as Americans, lack the will to change our gun culture and its deadly consequences.

I hope that we will be able to prove Mr. Gibson wrong.  I hope that the Sandy Hook murders can become our Dunblane, our Port Arthur, leading to significant changes in our gun laws.  As we move forward, we will need to address significant constitutional issues.  I personally believe that the founders intended for the American citizenry to have access to firearms to provide a check on illegitimate use of government power, and restricting this right is not something I take lightly. However, none of the gun deaths or injuries that have touched my life were perpetrated for a reasoned political cause.  While the founders saw armed resistance as the final fall back for an oppressed people, they sought first to promote the peace among us, to create a nation that valued toleration.  The Declaration of Independence calls for a government designed to “effect their safety and happiness.”  Today, we have neither. 

As you seek legislative solutions to the problem of gun violence, please tell me how I can be of assistance.


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