On May 24, 2022, an 18-year-old fatally shot nineteen students and two teachers, and wounded seventeen other people, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. This national tragedy--again--brought to light troubling problems with gun safety and gun violence in the US.
The 21 lives taken in Uvalde are tragic enough to take action, but the truth is that unfortunately there are many children's lives taken by guns every year. According to the CDC, guns have become the leading cause of death for children in the US. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, since 1963 guns in America have killed more than 193,000 children. That’s the total passenger count of 1,027 Boeing 737 airliners. And if hundreds of airplanes began falling from the sky, you’d think our government and businesses would take a moment to improve flight safety policies.
The fact is, the American gun lobby, comprised of gun manufacturers, has spent millions steering policymakers away from common sense gun reforms in order to sell more guns and make more money. Every consumer product, from teddy bears to cars, is subject to safety standards – guns are not. The NRA lobbied Congress in the ’90s to prohibit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from even collecting good gun data. The guns and ammunition manufacturing industry has experienced record growth in recent years, and is worth about $28 billion a year. But Everytown estimates we’re all paying for this growth—through law enforcement costs, health care expenses, limited economic growth, and other costs, to the tune of $280 billion annually--not to mention the human cost of lives lost.
We’ve lost far too many to gun violence for far too long, but the tide is starting to turn—thanks to brave people across the country who are standing up and speaking out against inaction.
One of the most effective actions we can all take is to use our purchasing power to pressure businesses to stop selling assault rifles or to quit supporting the NRA. Back in 2018, there was a similar outcry and grassroots movement for common sense gun safety after the Parkland, FL school shooting, and dozens of major companies cut ties with the NRA. Several retailers who carry guns also discontinued the sale of assault-style weapons or took other actions to promote gun safety.
The actions we take really can make a difference.
We can also ask ourselves how we might be contributing to a violence-obsessed culture, and demand policymakers—at every level—start putting the health and safety of their constituents above the interests of the gun lobby.
Here are 19 actions we all can take today and every day to reduce gun violence.
1. Let retailers know you won’t shop with them as long as they sell military-style weapons. Send a message to Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Gander Outdoors and others telling them to yank assault rifles from their shelves. This list contains contact information for these businesses as well as a script you can use when you call/email them.
2. Don’t give money to companies that support the NRA. You can avoid these businesses that support the NRA with member benefits. This list also contains contact information for those businesses as well as a script for what you can say when you call/email them to ask them to cut their ties with the NRA. Fortunately, this list has dwindled fast in the last few years!
3. …And thank businesses who have cut ties with the NRA or changed their gun sales policies. You can find these businesses at the bottom of this list, along with their contact information, if you want to send them a note of support.
4. Divest in guns. You can make sure your 401(k) is free of blood money by avoiding mutual funds that fund gun companies.
7. Sign up to receive action alerts from Everytown for Gun Safety. Stay up-to-date on common-sense reforms and advocacy opportunities.
8. Call your Senators. You can speak to your senator by calling 1-844-872-0234 and entering your zip code. You can say whatever you feel, or something like the following:
"Hello Senator ________, My name is ________ from _________ and I am your constituent in ______________ (state and zip code). I strongly encourage you to bring H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 and H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 up for a vote in the senate, and cast a supporting vote in the passage of both of these acts. Thank you for your work in representing me and our state."
9. And follow the issue at the state level. It’s not just Congress that makes gun policy. These days a lot more gets done in state capitols than in Washington. Contact your governors and state representatives to ask them to make changes.
10. …And at the local level too. Let your school boards know guns in the classroom are not the answer. And tell your children’s teachers we’re fighting to arm them with additional resources, not guns. Or ask your police departments to host gun amnesty or buyback events.
11. Change the message. “Gun control” is a loaded phrase. More people get behind things like “common-sense gun safety." Even the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia called for this, saying, “…like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”
12. Cancel NRA memberships. The NRA is out of touch with its members, a majority of which want expanded background checks. Now is a good time to say good riddance if you've been a member in the past.
13. Lock. Them. Up. Too many gun deaths are accidents that could have been prevented. Investing in gun locks and safes keeps loved ones safe.
14. Keep bullets and guns separate. Kids (especially boys) will find guns in the home. Reduce the risk of curiosity becoming fatal by keeping the guns and ammo separate.
16. Ask your faith leaders to take a stand. The United Church of Christ’s gun violence prevention campaign displays shirts on church lawns with the names of children killed by guns in each community. Ask your Pastor, Rabbi, Imam or other religious leaders to publicly raise the issue too.
17. Talk with your boys. The fact is, almost all mass shooters are male. This amazing op-ed, “The Boys Are Not Alright,” brilliantly articulates the need to start having a different societal conversation about masculinity and what it means to “be a man”.
18. Promote peace. In ways big and small, think of peace as the first and last option to resolving conflicts (most of us could probably start by curbing the aggressive reactions when we’re driving in heavy traffic…).
19. Vote. Decisions are made by those who show up. Vote for candidates calling for common-sense gun safety laws at every level. You can see how your candidates vote on legislation at GovTrack.us and vote (or not vote) for them accordingly.
Voting for candidates who aren’t in the pocket of the NRA does make a difference.
Voting with our wallets to change business behavior does make a difference (look at all the businesses that have cut NRA ties and are speaking out!).
Voting with our actions to create a more peaceful world is, over the long-term, working.
We have the power to keep the momentum going and to turn the tide against gun violence.