I can't write anything to make sense of the horror that occurred in Las Vegas just days ago. No one can. That's okay; what matters most now is not what we say, but what we do.
You may have heard helpless responses:
"We lost our souls after Newtown. This won't be any different." "Nothing will ever change." "All I can do is......... What can I do?"
These are cries of common hurt and frustration. Gun owners are afraid their priorities will be jeopardized because of crimes they didn't commit. Gun sense advocates are tired of explaining that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are meaningless without life.
These cries needn't go unanswered. The list of action steps is literally endless and expanding every day. Endless because you can prevent violence every time you care for a child. Expanding because more and more gun owners and victims of gun violence are coming together to find a path to a safer nation.
Where does Colorado fit in all of this? With our western independent streak and decidedly purple politics, it is no surprise that Colorado falls somewhere in the middle. Guns & Ammo magazine ranks Colorado as 37th in their 2015 "Best States for Gun Owners." The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (now Giffords Law Center) gave Colorado a C grade in 2016, compared to a C- in 2015. Seems like we could do better on both counts. How? For one thing, gun policy in Colorado lacks some of the most popular and effective regulations across party lines, as well as among gun owners.
But policy isn't everything, and whether or not you support gun control policy, you can still take action to prevent gun violence. Here are a few ideas to get started, in no particular order:
- Take care of yourself. This is the first and best thing you can do to help.
- Donate to an advocacy organization that truly represents your voice and priorities; not just when it is convenient for them, but most or all of the time.
- Rescind your membership in gun lobby groups that do not represent your voice and priorities. Even if you don't pay them any money, they use membership numbers to influence legislation.
- Look beyond party lines. In Colorado, Democrat Steve Lebsock received a 50% rating from the National Rifle Association in 2015.
- Show a child that you care.
- Dispose of your unwanted guns.
- Keep your guns stored safely.
- Check out the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at CU-Boulder for lots of resources about preventing all types of violence. (Full disclosure: I currently work for a CSPV initiative as an independent contractor.)
- Educate yourself. As you read statistics and data points, remember that those numbers represent real people whose daughters will walk wedding aisles alone, sons who won't know who to ask for parenting advice, children who lost a caring adult, and friends setting empty plates in front of empty chairs at their next gathering.
- Call your representatives, again, even if only to ask a question.
- Keep going. Even if you lose interest, re-engage later. One thing is for sure: we'll be reminded of this problem until it gets solved.
- Vote. Vote. VOTE. From school boards to state assemblies to United States senators and house representatives, every legislator can influence gun legislation and violence prevention. Be sure you know who you're voting for, what actions they've taken, and where gun violence is on your priority list as well as theirs.
- Before you or your children visit anyone's home, ask if there is a gun in the house.
- Et cetera. If reading these ideas gave you ideas specific to your life and situation, follow those ideas and flesh them out. Set aside some time each week to tackle your idea, set next action steps, and follow through.
- Repeat. This is not a problem that will be solved with one action. It requires commitment. Our commitment doesn't need to be all-consuming or even time consuming, but it does need to be ongoing.
So don't let talking points convince you that you have to choose between being a patriot and protecting the life and liberty of every single person in Colorado. In fact, each one demands the other, and both demand civic action.