Momentum Continues to Build for Gun Reform

When the devastation of even the Sandy Hook shooting failed to move Republican Senators to vote for something as basic as requiring a background check on every gun purchase, it appeared as though hope was lost for ever making any headway on this issue. But lately momentum seems to be building. For example, take a look at this.

With almost every mass shooting, a new group of activists is born from the ashes of grief. The families of Columbine students were initially alone. But more recent events sparked everything from Gabby Gifford’s organization to the Sandy Hook Promise and March For Our Lives. On the one hand, we can be grateful to these brave survivors of gun violence. But it is absolutely heartbreaking that they have all come about as a result of so much loss. Wednesday brought a sad reminder of just how long some of these folks have been pouring their hearts and souls into this effort.

I am reminded of what President Obama said about Christina Taylor Green during his remarks at the memorial service in Tuscon more than eight years ago.

Christina was an A student; she was a dancer; she was a gymnast; she was a swimmer.  She decided that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the Major Leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her.

She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age.  She’d remind her mother, “We are so blessed.  We have the best life.”  And she’d pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate…in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic, so full of magic.  So deserving of our love.  And so deserving of our good example.

As a measure of how these efforts are finally beginning to pay off, not only has Senator Graham changed his mind, business leaders from around the country have joined the movement. Andrew Ross Sorkin reports.

In a direct and urgent call to address gun violence in America, the chief executives of some of the nation’s best-known companies sent a letter to Senate leaders on Thursday, urging an expansion of background checks to all firearms sales and stronger “red flag” laws.

“Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety,” the heads of 145 companies, including Levi Strauss, Twitter and Uber, say in the letter, which was shared with The New York Times.

The letter — which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives — is the most concerted effort by the business community to enter the gun debate, one of the most polarizing issues in the nation and one that was long considered off limits.

Sorkin goes on to write about how these executives are taking a risk and putting their businesses on the line. That stems from the line about how basic things like background checks and “red flag” laws are somehow polarizing. But that is simply not true. Chip Bergh, chief executive of Levi Strauss, set the record straight.

“Business leaders are not afraid to get engaged now,” he added. “C.E.O.s are wired to take action on things that are going to impact their business and gun violence is impacting everybody’s business now.”

Mr. Bergh said he was encouraged by the conversations. “The tide is turning,” he said, citing a spate of recent polls that show a majority of Americans in both parties support background checks and red flag laws.

I’m sure there are times when a corporate CEO is willing to take a risk on an important issue. But this isn’t one of those times. It is the Republican Party and the NRA that are out of step right now. That is becoming more clear every day. Not only are people frightened by what is happening in this country, they are often enraged at the consequences, as we see in this report from Elizabeth Williamson about the trauma inflicted on children by active shooter drills.

The number of armed assailant drills in American public schools increased after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, when the Education Department changed its active-shooter response recommendations from sheltering in place to “options-based” approaches like “run, hide, fight” — training created for adults faced with workplace violence.

The security industry responded, promoting and selling programs that schools and local law enforcement officers adapt with fake blood, menacing masked “shooters” and simulated gunfire. Last year at Short Pump Middle School in Glen Allen, Va., school officials staged an unannounced active-shooter drill featuring multiple fire alarms, loud noises and unseen people jiggling the handles of classroom doors.

Thinking it was a real attack, students wept and texted goodbyes. Afterward, parents were furious.

Subjecting children to that kind of trauma because we can’t do a better job of protecting them from gun violence is nothing short of abhorrent.

We owe a debt of gratitude to all of the survivors of gun violence who have kept working on this issue—even after the latest incident disappeared from the headlines. The momentum for change is building and, at this point, it appears that only two men stand in the way of passing common sense gun safety measures: Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.