If I have spoken to you privately, then what I am about to say should not surprise you. I am not exactly shy with my opinions, or so I’ve been told. What is different about this article is it is the first time I have shared publicly my stance on gun violence.
I have been reluctant to address this issue for several reasons. One reason is I did not want to fall into the category of “thoughts and prayers.” While thoughts and prayers are a beautiful practice, they also have become a platitude as well as an excuse not to take action. I did not want folks to think that just because I wrote an article I was washing my hands of responsibility. This article is in addition to other action I have taken. (More below)
Another reason I have been reluctant to address gun violence on this platform was I wanted this space to be non-partisan. I was concerned that folks would dismiss what I said by placing me in a political category. What I have come to realize is that folks who don’t like what I say are going to find a way to dismiss it – unless they are willing to enter into a dialogue with me. (I don’t mean trolls. That is not dialogue.)
I, therefore, want to acknowledge the following:
- I have zero control over others.
- I need to speak out when I see a wrong.
- There is power in speaking out.
- Speaking out is not enough. Action is required too.
Before I opened Shakti in the Mountains, I worked at a university providing counseling, and substance abuse and sexual violence prevention. I learned that prevention work required several key components.
- Education: You can’t change what you don’t know or understand.
- Support: Making change is easier when you have a community who supports and understands you and the problem.
- Access: It is much harder to engage in harmful behaviors if you don’t have easy access to the things that cause harm.
In the name of education, I invite you to consider the following:
- Mass shootings in the United States are committed by men. If we want to end mass shootings, then we need to ask ourselves what cultural beliefs are causing some men to believe that killing innocent people is an option.
- While mental illness can be a contributing factor in mass shootings, it is not the only factor. Not everyone with a mental illness is violent. Just like not all men are violent. A better question to ask is: Why are the men who resort to mass shootings feeling so angry and so marginalized?
- Limiting access to guns, and in particular, removing certain guns from the market is essential to reducing gun violence. Required background checks, longer wait periods, stronger red flag laws are concrete solutions to reducing the possibility of violent weapons falling into the hands of unhealthy people.
- Hate speech of any kind, but in particular by folks with authority and power, invite people who hate to act on their hate. When lawmakers, ministers, teachers, coaches and celebrities spew racist, sexist, homophobic and other demeaning taunts, they are essentially saying it is okay to treat certain people as less than. People who have power need to take responsibility for how their words and actions impact our community.
If my words resonated with you, then I invite you to:
- Challenge hate speech when you hear or see it. Invite folks to speak about their fears opposed to extolling hate.
- Teach tolerance. Be a role model for your family, friends and colleagues. Demonstrate through your words and deeds how to handle conflict and differences of opinion without resorting to name calling, ostracizing and violence.
- Seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed by anger, fear, sadness, anxiety or hate. All of these feelings are normal; however, if you are having difficulty regulating them or are suffering as a result of them, then find a trusted professional, minister, or friend to help you sort them out. We all need help sometimes.
- Contact your local, state and federal lawmakers and ask them to pass common sense gun safety laws. An easy way to navigate the system and get your voice heard is to text 644-33. You will receive a reply from Everytown, a movement to end gun violence and build safer communities. Everytown will put you in touch with your federal senator so you can speak directly to his/her office. I texted 644-33 this morning and spoke to my senator. It took two minutes.
I decided to share my thoughts and implore you take action for three reasons.
One, I used to live in Dayton, Ohio. I used to walk the streets of the Oregon District where the most recent mass shooting occurred. That could have been me last Sunday running from bullets, or worse, shot dead.
Two, I worry about my loved ones. Listening to my child speak about his fear of an active shooter at school. Wondering if a disgruntled employee will bring a gun to my partner’s work. Questioning the safety of attending a public event or going to open venue. These thoughts hurt. I am not being dramatic. I am being real.
Three, I don’t want another person to grieve the loss of their loved one due to gun violence. I don’t want to open the paper, turn on the news, see another post about unnecessary suffering. It is breaking my heart.
Is it breaking yours?