On Feb. 14, 17 people were killed and 15 hospitalized when Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year- old, white, male opened fire for six minutes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida as school let out for the day. It is the second-deadliest school shooting since 2012 when the Sandy Hook massacre claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.
Shock, outrage, and unanswered calls for gun control have become the rinse-and- repeat response to the growing number of mass shootings in the United States.
The Parkland school shooting has reignited calls for both gun control and campaign finance reform, as the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress seems reluctant to make meaningful changes in the nation’s gun laws in the wake of the 17th incidence of gunfire at a school this year. Since Sandy Hook, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide. In those instances, 438 people were shot, 138 of whom were killed, the New York Times reported.
Black children, particularly young boys and older children, are more likely than whites to die from gun-related violence, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report and published in October 2017 the journal Pediatrics. The gun-related homicide rate for black children, at 3.5 for every 100,000 was nearly 10 times the rate for white children, at .4 for 100,000. Often these deaths happened in “multi-victim events and involve intimate partner of family conflict,” the survey found.
The United States is one of three countries in the world, including Mexico and Guatemala, in which the right to bear arms is a constitutional right. Americans account for 4.4 percent of the world’s population. But its citizens own nearly half of the world’s civilian-owned guns.
Organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) spends millions of dollars each year to keep it that way, according to Open Secrets.org, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog. The NRA gave more than $1.08 million to congressional candidates during the 2016 election cycle. It also spent more than $3 million in 2016 on lobbyists to oppose nearly every form of gun regulation, including –restrictions on owning assault weapons, retaining gun purchase databases, background checks on purchasers at gun shows, and changes in the registration of firearms.
With so much political and financial firepower at the disposal of gun rights supporters, it may seem like the average person doesn’t stand a chance. But you do.
In the words of American anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Here are few ways you can stem the tide of gun violence in our communities.
1. Participate in #NationalSchoolWalkout. The Women’s March Youth EMPOWER branch is
calling on students, teachers, school administrators, parents, and others to walk out of school for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. “across every time zone on March 14. The national school walkout will “protest Congress’ inaction to do more than Tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.” Click here to find a list of events near you.
2. Join Parkland students and families in Washington D.C. On March 24, the kids and families of Parkland, Florida, will “take to the streets of Washington D.C. to demand that their lives and safety become a priority.” Protesters will call on Congress to end gun violence and mass shootings in schools. You can march, donate, or purchase t-shirts and hoodies to support the cause.
3. Advocate for Restorative Justice. Petition your local school board to require restorative justice practices as part of your school’s community. Bullying plays a significant role in the lives of school shooters. Restorative justice, also known as restorative practices, focus on repairing harm through inclusive processes that engage students, teachers and other stakeholders. In addition, it is an alternative to the suspension/expulsion approach to school discipline, which overwhelmingly punishes students of color. A troubled middle school in one of the largest districts in North Carolina reported in December, for example, a 75 percent drop in major discipline referrals.
4. Call for meaningful campaign finance reform. The landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2010 opened the floodgates for unmitigated, campaign donations to political candidates from special interests. Not that they needed a boost. Campaign finance reform ideas include setting contribution caps to candidates and requiring full disclosure on political ads.
5. Vote. This year’s mid-term elections will take place on Nov. 6. Up for grabs in the U.S. Congress are all 435 seats in the House and 33 of the 50 seats in the Senate. Elections for governor will be held in 36 states and three U.S. territories. Closer to home, legislative races will be held in nearly every state in the country. Women of color have seen the changes we can make in states like Virginia and Alabama when we go to the polls in droves. Learn more about how to exercise and protect your right to vote.