For more information about the history of the gun violence prevention movement, and how the gun lobby has taken over the process, read the companion piece to this article, entitled "The Pathetic History of How and Why the NRA Dominates Congress."
Two recent tragedies in Orlando. The first one -- a shooting by a deranged fan last Friday after a concert -- resulted in the death of a former The Voice contestant, Christina Grimmie. This horrifying shooting, that occurred as she was signing autographs, could have resulted in much greater carnage had her brother not tackled the shooter. In retrospect, however, the Grimmie shooting seemed like foreshadowing for early Sunday morning's unfathomable massacre at an Orlando LGBT nightclub, in which a single assailant killed at least 50, and wounded another 53, with an assault-style weapon, making it the worst mass murder in U.S. history.
Two very different crimes with one highly significant similarity: the use of guns to kill their victims. Gun violence continues to wreak havoc on and terrorize our country like none other in the developed world. Given that frequent mass and other shootings have become the new norm, it is imperative that women and moms learn the facts and do what they can to help.
5 of the Most Significant Ways Gun Violence Impacts Women and Their Children
1. Domestic Violence
Although the National Rifle Association ("NRA") likes to insist that guns keep women safe, the truth is that a gun is far more likely to be used against its woman owner by a domestic abuser than as a means of self-defense. In fact, women are less safe living in a house with a gun, period, according to the research.
2. Negligence/Accidental Shootings
An appalling number of children die every year because a parent has failed to lock up a gun. The child -- often a very young child -- accesses the gun, which is loaded and somehow discharges. In some jurisdictions, this is considered to be an accidental shooting, but really it is negligence or even recklessness on the part of the parent. Any parent knows that just because you explain dangers to your toddler or young child, doesn’t mean he or she will listen to you and avoid the dangers 100 percent of the time. It only takes that one time for a child either to injure or kill himself, a playmate, a sibling, or any member of the family. The child is a victim either way, having to live her life knowing that she killed a friend or loved one.
3. Teen Suicide
Suicide is on the rise and is the third leading cause of teen and young adult death in this country. Lacking impulse control, and if severely depressed, a teen who can easily gain access a gun is a recipe for disaster. While a person can attempt to kill himself or herself in a variety of ways, one who has easy access to a gun is much more likely to succeed before getting treatment for the underlying mental disorder.
4. School Shootings
Since Sandy Hook, there have been an unacceptable 186 shootings in schools and universities. That breaks down to be nearly one shooting per week. Even when a school has a concern about a possible threat, it often will go into "lockdown," thus potentially terrifying our kids, who wonder if their lives are in danger.
5. "Stand Your Ground" Laws
Primarily minority children and teens have been shot and killed by civilian adults (often white males), who are engaging in vigilantism. Lax gun laws in certain jurisdictions enable the killer to legally obtain a concealed carry permit even if a convicted felon and, then, so-called "stand your ground" statutes enable him to claim self-defense.
The best known case of a "Stand Your Ground" defense was the 2012 Trayvon Martin case in Florida. George Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, an African-American teen, alleging that he felt threatened and thus justified in shooting and killing the unarmed 17-year-old. Normally this would not be a valid defense given evidence that Zimmerman had run after the teen when he could have simply retreated. Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law provides an exception to the general rule, however, and Zimmerman used the defense successfully to avoid a guilty verdict. Twenty-eight other states have enacted similar statutes, which critics call "license to kill"or "shoot first" laws.
5 Simple Yet Powerful Things Woman/Moms Can Do to Help Reduce Gun Violence in This Country
1. Join your local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and respond to their calls to action.
This grassroots group, formed in the wake of Sandy Hook, continues to exert influence through simple yet effective means of advocacy and lobbying, including boycotts, demonstrations, rallies, petitions, and concerted efforts to raise awareness via social media (such as the "No Joke, Moms Vote" campaign depicted above). Moms are encouraged to bring their children to events so you don’t even have to get a babysitter.
2. Write and call your members of Congress.
For a list of your senators and representatives, as well as contact information, go to this website. Tell them or their staffer that you’re a constituent and a voter who is concerned about gun violence in this country and ask them to take measures such as voting for common sense gun law reforms, and holding gun manufacturers accountable. If your members of Congress are already on board, thank them for their leadership and implore them to continue to make gun violence prevention a legislative priority.
How to know if your current legislators are pro-gun violence prevention? One way to find out is to check the NRA's rating of him or her. An "F" grade from the NRA means your legislator is doing an outstanding job of advancing gun safety interests. As a general rule, most (though not all) GOP lawmakers tend to reject bills aimed at reducing gun violence through common sense gun laws, and the vast majority of Democrats (though not all) tend to support them.
3. Vote for candidates at the state and federal level who are in favor of enacting common sense gun laws and who have a history to back it up.
This includes voting for Hillary Clinton for President. Clinton has been endorsed by all major gun violence prevention groups in this country, because she has made gun violence prevention a major part of her platform, the first presidential candidate ever to do so. The NRA has endorsed Donald Trump, who believes that the Second Amendment takes priority over public health and safety, and who wants to eliminate gun-free zones. Clinton has also expressed a disdain for the District of Columbia v. Heller decision, which adopted a nearly unfettered constitutional right for individual gun ownership, potentially including domestic abusers, terrorists, felons, and the mentally ill. If elected, it stands to reason that she would want to appoint to the Supreme Court a judge who interprets the Second Amendment more consistent with her views than Justice Scalia's.
When in doubt as to whether or not a politician is pro-gun violence prevention, check whether the NRA has donated to his or her campaign or has given the candidate a favorable rating. These are big red flags that you should not vote for that candidate.
4. If you are a gun owner, lock up your guns and do not risk that your child will be able to access a gun.
Take responsibility for your guns. Even if it is legal in your state to open or conceal carry a gun in public, seriously consider leaving yours at home. Too many guns have fired “accidentally” in public places, such as public bathrooms, Wal-Mart, restaurants, and hotel lobbies.
5. Before your child goes to a playdate or to a friend’s house, ask the parent if there are guns in the household.
Consider restricting visits to that house (especially if the parents do not keep their guns locked up at all times) and plan more playdates in your home, which is hopefully a gun-free zone. If not, and you must have a gun for self-defense, consider buying a smart gun, such as the intelligun, that can only fire if the owner is holding it.
Still skeptical about the role that our lax gun laws play in mass shootings, such as the Orlando nightclub massacre? Read the "Definitive Guide to the Gun Safety Debate."
Edited to add a link to the companion piece to this article, tracing the history of the gun prevention movement, and the NRA's interference in the process, which was published on June 21, 2016.