Monday, October 3, 2016

Keeping Our Children Safe 

A Subaru ad opens with a parent saying ‘you can’t take that,’ while pulling a ninja martial arts weapon from his son’s camp bag.  In scenes that follow a dad yells “hey, you can’t….” to a young daughter poised to ski down the stairs; a mom scans a son’s laptop with a “you can’t ….” expression of concern for on-line hazards.  Cut to scene of teenage boy picking up the car keys and calling out to mom, “I’m taking the car.”  But instead of “car” he names the Subaru:  yes!  It’s safe.  Mom approves.

Subaru's marketing department brilliantly captures every parent’s nightmare:  that midnight call that their child has been in a wreck.    Only a parent’s caution – no skiing down the stairs! no bad stuff on internet! – can keep our kids safe.  Good parents, caring parents,-- parents who want their kids to be safe-- will buy this model of car.

Imagine an different ending for that ad:  a parent declining to buy a gun no matter how many ads claims that “guns don’t kill,” a parent choosing to shop where a “No Guns” sign is prominently displayed in the window, a parent speaking up against teachers being armed at school, a parent hosting the outings and sleep-overs if they know there will be guns at the other children’s homes, a parent calling out a parent who has a gun in her purse or his car.

Image credit:

Those parents need the rest of us – their village – to back them up, to speak up for a gun-free culture for their children, and to do so with a collective voice and strong collective action.

Where do we start?  No strong federal legislation came out of the shootings at Sandy Hook or the many gun killings since then. But it is not true that “nothing changed.” 

First, parents are taking individual action in their shopping, their voting, their talks with their kids.
And all over the country  -- our country!—people are organizing for smart gun control legislation, for accurate and systematic and sustained collection and publication of data on gun-related violence.  Parents and others are pushing for solid research on the effects of gun violence on communities, on children’s physical and mental health, on families, on mass incarceration, on money in politics, on local economies.

From the parents of children murdered by the gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary, to the billionaire mayor of New York, to a congresswoman herself severely injured by an assassin who managed to kill her staffers, bystanders and a judge, Americans are organizing to counter with reasoned argument and passionate claims on our morality the systemic violence of the National Rifle Association, its “owned” members of Congress, and the lucrative network of gun dealers and trainers. 

According to Patrick Blanchfield in The Nation magazine, “as of July 2016,  some 14.5 million Americans have been licensed to carry a concealed weapon, but 11 states don’t require a license; some states require training for a license, some don’t. And according to Blanchfield, sometimes “training” means listening to a lecture at the level of “don’t point your gun at things you don’t mean to shoot,” and “treat all guns like they’re loaded.”  According to the author, the NRA not only has a network of fire-arms trainers in various states but also participates in drafting any gun-related laws through its Institute for Legislative Action.  Training by NRA instructors represents a huge income stream for the NRA.  Blanchfield puts the number of NRA instructors nationwide at 55,000, with at least a million “students” taking the training:  Solid income stream + new cohort of anti-gun-control Americans.  Blanchfield was writing from his investigation into the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute and Resort, 550 acres of Nevada dedicated to shooting – at a level described as beyond military or law enforcement training.

The article is chilling for the claims made by the Front Line owner that “only a gun” can stop [fill in the blank naming a crime or threat].  It is also chilling as a window into the vast network of money, political connections, corporate incarnations of “training,” and of course gun dealers that work together very closely to assure that there will be more guns in more hands in more places with less regulation and more normalization of a gun culture.   To justify their rigid defense of access  even to militarized weapons in civilian hands, they carefully coordinate messages of danger-without-a-gun in ads and magazines and online streaming: messages of fear.

We can’t let manufactured fears dominate our actions to limit guns in the lives of our children. They deserve better.  My next post will list some of the ways parents and others are getting together to challenge the intransigence and  the seeming immovable force that is the gun industry in our country.     Kindred spirits finding each other and working together to create those “special provisions” our children deserve.

To share your thoughts, click on the word “comments” below.

No comments: