"It Can't Happen To Me"

"It Can't Happen To Me"
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Some of us think to ourselves, "It can't happen to me," or, "It can't happen here." We think, "I'm a good person and I don't hurt anybody. I live in a safe neighborhood. I couldn't possibly be a gunshot victim, and neither could my family. It can't happen to me."

Except that it can. Just ask Lance Haver.

About a year ago, I attended an anti-gun violence rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that Lance was instrumental in organizing. A longtime advocate of common-sense gun laws, Lance is a man who has worked much of his life helping to make all Pennsylvanians safer by pushing for strong gun policy in his state. He is someone who labors tirelessly behind the scenes against gun violence.

What's more, Lance happens to be the city of Philadelphia's Director of Consumer Affairs, an advocate on behalf of regular people who otherwise lack the power or wherewithal to speak to government leaders. His wife, Lisa, is a teacher in the Philadelphia public schools. In many ways, they represent the typical American middle-class family. Yet they are atypical in their unparalleled dedication to public service.

And then, on September 22, their family life was shattered by a man who walked up to their adopted son, Daren Dieter, and shot him in the spine. The shooter left Daren in a parking lot in Philadelphia, paralyzed from the neck down. Daren happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, a young man simply trying to buy a late-night snack for himself and his date.

Now he's permanently attached to a respirator.

It can't happen to you?

America suffers over 10,000 gun murders and 17,000 gun suicides every year. Hundreds of thousands of regular Americans are victims of violent gun crime annually, and the country has now suffered the first two-year national violent crime increase in over a decade. Every day we see or hear or read about another senseless gun injury or death. We can no longer assume that it can't happen to us. We can no longer shut our eyes and hope that other innocent people like Daren Dieter won't be shot every single day. Condolences aren't enough.

It is time for us to ask ourselves why we let this slaughter continue, and what we are going to do to stop it.

To begin, we can remember our traditional obligations to one another, and choose to be our brother's and our sister's keeper. We have to realize that when gun tragedy strikes one of the Daren Dieters of the world, it affects us all. And then we must come together to stop those who help put illegal guns into criminal hands in the first place: "Hear No Evil" gun manufacturers, "See No Evil" corrupt gun dealers, and "Speak No Evil" politicians in Washington who have been in the hold of the gun lobby for far too long.

Common-sense gun laws are favored by a vast majority of Americans and would do much to alleviate the real-life threat of illegal guns in this country. It is up to all of us to push to get those laws enacted, in spite of the gun lobby's most strident efforts. This was Lance Haver's fight long before his son was shot, and it's even more his fight now.

It's our fight, too.

Stay strong, Lance, and know that our prayers are with you.

(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on bradycampaign.org/blog and the Huffington Post.)

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