Many of us celebrated love and Valentine’s Day recently with our spouses, partners, children and other loved ones, but another group of people within our country did not have the same experience; instead, this day of love was overshadowed by the remembrance of the deadliest school shooting in American history on Feb. 14, 2018, in Parkland, Florida.
While nearly 100 American lives are lost daily due to gun violence, this incident personally spurred our group into action because senseless school shootings and other acts of gun violence must end. Last February, we created our very own local group of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (Moms) in direct response to this unfathomable event. We want our community to know that we do not have to live this way.
Moms is a non-partisan, grassroots organization fighting for public safety measures to protect people from gun violence. It is comprised of gun owners and non-gun owners alike. A chapter of Moms exists in every state and it is part of a larger organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, which is the largest gun violence protection organization in the country with more than 5 million supporters.
While Watauga County and surrounding areas have not yet faced the type of violence that visited Parkland, we cannot assume that we are safe. The sad reality is that gun violence is very likely to touch every one of us or our family members because of a very complex set of social and regulatory problems that Moms works every day to lessen.
Some of these problems include: 1) dangerous people having relatively easy and unchecked access to weapons, high capacity magazines, and bump stocks; 2) our federal and state governments having a patchwork of confusing laws regarding access to weapons and enforcement measures against those who violate the laws; and 3) the lack of accurate state or national tracking mechanisms for gun sales, gun injuries, and gun deaths.
We are all likely aware of stories like Parkland that make it into mainstream media, but across the nation there are also dozens of daily fatal incidents that never make the news.
Most of these incidents can be prevented. Lawmakers are taking notice because communities are speaking out and demanding that they not live in fear of being next.
In the federal realm, the first piece of gun violence prevention legislation in years (HR 8) has now been introduced. This would require federal background checks on all gun purchases. In North Carolina, on Feb. 14, several North Carolina lawmakers filed the Gun Violence Prevention Act. This would require background checks on all gun purchases, ban high capacity magazines and bump stocks, and raise the age to purchase an assault style weapon from 18 to 21.
But — what can we do here and what can we do now? We encourage all adults to “Be SMART” and take these simple steps to ensure the safety of our children and communities:
• Secure all guns in your homes and vehicles.
• Model responsible behavior around guns.
• Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes.
• Recognize the risks of teen suicide.
• Tell your peers to Be SMART.
Every person in this community should care about making it the safest place possible. “Be SMART,” educate yourself on the issues, contact law enforcement if you are aware of a person or situation that is dangerous, and/or contact your state or federal representative and make your concerns heard. Do what you can to lessen the chance that senseless gun violence will visit your family and community. We will keep doing the same. For every one of us.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Watauga Local Group: Alison Gates, Kathy Parham, Erin Hutchison-Martin, Sarah Sparks Donovan,
the Rev. Stephanie Coble Hankins
and Paulette Marty