What Will Help on Guns?

Editorial

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Published April 24, 2014, issue of May 02, 2014.
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Bloomberg’s money, welcome and necessary though it is, represents only one part of the answer, however. It will be effective only if it is matched in passion and raw determination by voters and activists willing to put aside other causes to focus for once on this.

The nurses, physicians and other health care professionals who have mobilized in the past to push for legislation helpful to their practices and pocketbooks need to make it clear that senseless gun violence in this country is a serious public health concern.

The activists who have successfully expanded the definition of civil rights — from the right to board a public bus in a wheelchair to the right of gay men and lesbians to marry —must see gun safety as a civil right, too. The right to public safety. The right to know that if they step into a school or a store or a bar, the person at the next table or at the checkout line isn’t carrying a concealed weapon.

After the latest shootings at Jewish institutions in Kansas City, this needs to leap to the top of the Jewish communal agenda, too.

The elected officials so adept at reading public opinion polls should recognize that an overwhelming majority of Americans — including members of the NRA — favor expanding the background check system for gun buyers at the state and national level, the key aim of the Bloomberg initiative, called Everytown for Gun Safety. That’s the name of the new umbrella organization incorporating two groups that Bloomberg had been funding: Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which started as a Facebook page after the Newtown shootings in December 2012 and now has chapters in all 50 states.

It’s the mothers — including Jewish mothers — who really need to mobilize.

We’re not being sexist here. Just strategic.

Kristin A. Goss, an associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University, wrote a book after Columbine asking why America hadn’t developed a strong gun control movement. She analyzed other life-and-death movements and found “three common elements: funding from wealthy patrons, incremental strategies that delivered momentum-building victories and maternal calls to action,” she wrote recently in The New York Times. In other words: money, momentum and moms.

Maternal calls to action, you may remember, spurred a movement to curb drunk driving that has had demonstrable, life-saving results. You can see the same passion to hold together families and communities when reading the first-person stories on the Moms Demand Action website: stories of the infuriating waste of human life brought on by people who should not have had access to guns.

Men still hold the preponderance of political power in this country and so it may well be up to women to become the swing vote for this cause. Two Jewish women have lent their traumatized voices to this campaign — Giffords and Veronique Pozner, mother of the only Jewish child killed in the Newtown massacre — and yet have little to show for their heroic efforts. Twice as many states have loosened gun laws than approved restrictions since Newtown.

In “The Library,” we learn that the murderer purchased his weapons at a garage sale and at a Wal-Mart store. Could the problem be any more dramatically clear?


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