Coming Together to Heal Our Nation of the Gun Violence Epidemic

On Tuesday, February 2nd, I had the amazing opportunity to join interfaith activists from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. as part of a national day of action to address gun violence. Leaders from several organizations from across the area joined Metro-Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) in front of Realco Gun Store in Maryland to call on the CEOs of seven of the world's largest gun manufacturers to explore safer gun technology and urge Realco and other gun shops to do their part in keeping guns out of the hands of people who would seek to do harm. It was incredible to hear these activists speak, and to see so many groups of people coming together - from religious organizations to people from different faith backgrounds - to talk about an issue that affects us all.

As the Social Action Vice President for NFTY - The Reform Jewish Youth Movement, I represent over 10,000 teens from across the United States and Canada. One year ago NFTY launched our #NotOneMore campaign to end gun violence, an effort which has mobilized thousands of teens across the Reform Jewish Movement to educate others, advocate, and take action on the issue of gun violence. Joining organizations like the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Metro- IAF's Do Not Stand Idly By campaign, young activists are contacting their legislators and local mayors to demand action, writing articles in their local and school newspapers, and utilizing social media to educate their peers.

Growing up in a country where Isla Vista, Sandy Hook, and Virginia Tech are common vocabulary, we strive to add the underrepresented youth voice to an issue that has so heavily affected our generation's upbringing.

Tuesday's action day, though incredibly inspiring, is also heartbreaking. Since the beginning of my work on this campaign I've had the privilege to speak to many people who've been affected by gun violence so deeply, whether it's been the loss of a loved one, or in some cases being a survivor themselves. Though gun violence has left a deeper mark on some people than others, the widespread frequency of these horrifying incidents have left virtually everyone with some connection to this gun violence epidemic. I once spoke with a teacher in Atlanta who told me about watching almost half the hands in his middle school classroom go up when asked if they had witnessed or had known personally a victim of gun violence, and how almost all of the hands went up when asked if they had access to a gun.

We're living in a country where this devastating issue is not just one person's heartbreak, but a nation's brokenness.

And while the action that occurred on Tuesday was an incredible step towards progress, that's what it was, a step. If we are going to see true change brought to this issue, many more steps need to be taken. As Rabbi Esther Lederman said on Tuesday, "We cannot act alone... It will take people of faith, political leaders, law enforcement, families, and yes, gun manufacturers to begin to heal our nation".

This year in our country, more than 33,000 people will lose their lives as a result of gun violence. On average that means that just today, guns will claim the lives of 86 Americans. I am proud to be part of a movement that has said enough is enough and that is working with those who are committed bringing about that necessary change. By doing so, hopefully, we will be able to alleviate this problem for the generations to come and slowly begin to turn this devastation into a just sad and distant memory.