Opinion: I was apathetic about gun violence — until my 6-year-old son was killed


It’s this sense of apathy that has allowed federal lawmakers to avoid passing meaningful gun safety reform.

It’s not until another mass shooting that the cycle happens again. We offer our prayers and thoughts. We demand action and then argue over the proposed solutions. There are news stories, sadness, and anger that underlie an outcry for change … but then we move on.

And I was just as guilty as anyone else.

I was ironing some clothes when the news broke in July 2012 that a dozen people had been murdered in a mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater. My heart broke for the families, but after a few days, I also moved on, not seeing the far-reaching impact that gun violence had on our society. As time passed, I almost forgot about the shooting.

Five months later, my son Dylan was dead. He was killed in his first-grade classroom along with 19 of his classmates and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

My beautiful butterfly who brought so much joy and love to my life was gone. I felt like my heart was ripped from my chest. Nobody should have to feel the pain of losing their child to gun violence. It’s a pain that never goes away. Every day I kiss the urn that holds my son’s ashes, wondering what his life would have been like.

I was one of those who thought gun violence could never happen in my community. And I was wrong. Gun violence can and does happen everywhere — and sometimes when and where you least expect it.

No community is immune. Not even yours.

Americans were shocked when eight people were killed in a shooting spree near Atlanta. Less than two weeks later, they watched in horror as another 10 people were gunned down at a grocery store in Colorado and four more people were killed in California, including a nine-year-old boy. As I was writing this, five people — including two children, ages 5 and 9 — were gunned down in South Carolina.
In response to years of inaction from Congress to address this growing problem of gun violence, President Joe Biden will issue six executive orders on gun reform. Biden is also nominating a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which has not had a confirmed director since 2015.

These steps, while commendable, will not be enough. Americans need Congress to vote on common sense gun reform, to achieve things like universal background checks and stopping the sale of assault weapons. Voters need to hold lawmakers accountable.

Ignoring the problem won’t protect you. Realize that the shooting victim that reminds you of your son or daughter could actually be your son or daughter one day. Every time you pick up your child from school, go to a grocery store, a house of worship, a park or a movie theater, think about how those victims felt that same false sense of safety just before someone came in with an assault rifle and began shooting.

Then use that fear and anger to demand action from our elected leaders. Right now. Not when the next mass shooting hits the news.

Gun violence in the United States is surging. It’s already the number one cause of death for children and young adults. And more people were killed by gun violence last year than in the past two decades. As fear and hate gripped the nation during the pandemic, gun sales surged. Under federal law, if an FBI background check takes more than three days to process, gun dealers are allowed to continue with the sale of a firearm — called the Charleston loophole because it’s how the Emanuel A.M.E. Church shooter was able to purchase his gun. Furthermore, many firearm purchasers can skirt a federal background check altogether by buying from unlicensed private sellers, including those who make sales at gun shows and engage in internet sales. These unlicensed private sellers aren’t required to perform background checks on the people they sell guns to. This loophole gives prohibited people an easy way to buy guns. In 2015, 22% of Americans who had acquired a gun in the two years prior reported doing so without a background check.

We must take action now before the next tragedy strikes. We need to expand background checks for all gun purchases before more innocent people — who want nothing more than to go to school, pick up a gallon of milk, or visit a house of worship — are murdered

It’s a measure that most Americans — including gun owners — already support. Studies show it’s one of the most effective tools to save lives and help stem the tide of violence plaguing our country.
We can no longer let this be a partisan issue. Not when more than 100 Americans, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are dying every day from gun violence. It’s up to all of us, Republicans and Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives, to pass meaningful reform in this nation. We need to stand up as mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who no longer want to live in fear.

We need to hear every voice. We need every American to stand up to their lawmakers and say we will no longer allow them to fail us. They need to know that their apathy and inaction have cost thousands of lives. Demand that they pass background checks on all gun purchases. Don’t wait until the violence comes to your front door to do something about it.



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