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The Massacre of Innocents Continues

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Having submitted my final columns for 2022 at the end of November, I looked forward to a holiday respite while contemplating what my first commentary for 2023 might be. My notes suggested global warming, immigration challenges, and the earliest ever election season, which had started a nanosecond after the November election.

Then came four mass shootings in less than a week that killed nearly two dozen people and grievously injured many more. The month of November saw 32 mass shootings nationally while a tally of more than 600 mass shootings had occurred across the country by then. According to the Washington Post in June, mass shootings had averaged more than one per day and not a single week till then had passed without at least four mass shootings. The frightening statistics go on and on as does the increase in gun violence and death in this country: In 2014 there were 243 mass shooting in the first half of the year, in 2022 there were 606.

Clearly, we live in a country besieged by domestic terrorism in the form of unchecked gun violence. It's a country that mystifies and frightens other civilized nations such that many would-be visitors no longer want to set foot in such a dangerous place of random violence. It is a country in which there is a very real chance that being in the wrong place at the wrong time can cost you or your loved ones their lives. That place could be a school, a place of worship, a workplace, a shopping mall, grocery store, restaurant, lecture or library, concert or club. It is a country bereft as blood runs red in our homes, our places of higher learning, our streets, our nightmares.

In June last year Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform at the time, held a hearing on the urgent need to address the gun violence epidemic. The powerful words of those who testified speak volumes for all of us who want Congress to stand up to obstructive politicians, rabid lobbyists for the NRA and other destructive organizations and Americans who worship guns no matter who they kill.

Kimberly Rubio, who lost her daughter in the Uvalde slaughter, was one of many people who testified. "Today we stand for Lexi, and we demand action. We seek a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. We understand that "to some people, people with money, people who fund political campaigns, that guns are more important than children, so at this moment we ask for progress. Somewhere out there, a mom is hearing our testimony and thinking, 'I can't even imagine their pain,' not knowing that our reality will one day be hers, unless we act now."

Another was Becky Pringle, President of the National Education Association. "The impact to the community is forever. " The idea of turning our schools into prisons, into places where they are not conducive to teaching and learning, is not the solution to the problem. We know what the solution to this problem is, it's comprehensive gun reform."

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, representing the Major Cities Chiefs Association, called for Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban, adopt universal background checks, ban high-capacity magazines, enact red flag laws, and pass other "common-sense reforms that would help law enforcement and other stakeholders mitigate the threat gun violence poses to our communities."

According to the Pew Research Center, research has shown that the effects of the gun epidemic have led to a mental health crisis in America with rates of depression and anxiety as well as youth suicide rates increasing. "It changes the entire picture on how much public resources we should use to attack gun violence," Erdal Tekin, co-author of a report in the journal Health Affairs, says. "It would be informative for the public and policymakers to know that the impact of gun violence extends to people who think they are safe."

It would also be wise, and it is obviously urgent, for Congress to actually legislate, at long last, gun laws that put an end to the travesty of continued gun violence and related deaths. A good start would be to promulgate laws that ban assault weapons nationally as other countries have done, along with other sensible laws aimed at keeping innocent Americans alive.

With Republicans now in control of the House that is a tall order, but it is an order from the vast majority of constituents for both parties. If our elected representatives in Congress ignore our pleas they can expect to be inundated with calls, protest, petitions, and more. They can also expect to lose their seats next year.

If each of us makes a commitment to act, starting now, to end the madness of high-capacity magazines, open carry laws, assault weapons and more, we can collectively save lives while sending a strong message to Congress. Begin bombarding the House and Senate now with calls and petitions and marches. Write letters to the editor. The message is clear: Enough is Enough. Stop the slaughter. End the massacres that shames our nation. Save the lives of loved ones, including your own. End the travesty that tarnishes our names as Americans. And remember the Talmudic teaching: "Whoever saves a single life is considered by scripture to have saved the whole world.' ...

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Elayne Clift is a writer,lecturer, workshop leader and activist. She is senior correspondent for Women's Feature Service, columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel and Brattleboro (VT) Commons and a contributor to various publications internationally. (more...)
 
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