Last week, some friends and I were sitting around, when one of the friends offered an extra ticket he had to the opening night of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While I internally debated the hassle of a packed theater and being at the movies at midnight on Thursday, another friend piped up, "There's no way I'd see Star Wars opening night, it's too dangerous." After this statement, the group discussed at length whether or not you were putting your life in danger by going to Star Wars opening night, given the increasing number of mass shootings at movie theaters and the large crowd sure to be drawn by the highly anticipated return of Star Wars. Ultimately, some of the friends decided the risk was too high and others decided they wouldn't be terrorized into missing opening night of a film they'd been waiting years to see.
What struck me most about this debate was that if my friends were having this conversation, certainly others across the nation were having it too. And it's despicable. First we let the gun industry buy a majority of our Congresspeople and State Legislators, then threaten our schools, then our houses of worship, then our local news-teams, then our health clinics, then our holiday parties, and now they've come for Star Wars.
Is this really our "new normal" in America -- with politicians who care more about placating the gun industry than serving the public and at least attempting to protect us from criminals and terrorists buying assault weapons undetected and causing mayhem on a daily basis? Sadly, we've made it acceptable for politicians to trade blood money campaign contributions for common sense national gun laws. And we've been complacent. Rather than stand up for our safety and democracy, we've become obsessive consumers deciding not to see movies, shop in malls or even go to school based upon the fear of being killed in an all too common daily mass shooting.
In the three years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass killing of 20 first graders and their teachers, Congress has done nothing to strengthen our national gun laws and protect Americans from future mass shootings. The result has been 161 more school shootings, over 96,000 more Americans killed by guns and more than one mass shooting of four or more Americans every day for the entire year of 2015. Despite the fact that 91 percent of Americans believe that criminal background checks should be conducted for all firearm sales, the U.S. Senate voted earlier this month not to expand background checks to unregulated internet and gun show sales. Congress voted the same day not to close another dangerous loophole that would bar individuals on the terrorist watch list from legally purchasing a gun. As a country, we are letting 9 percent of Americans, those who do not support expanded background checks for criminals and suspected terrorists, to hold our congress hostage and terrorize our communities and families.
At the rate of 90 more Americans killed by guns every day and more high profile mass shootings every week, we may no longer risk going to Star Wars or the movies in the future. Hollywood: let this be your call to action.
We need the voices and support of the entertainment industry on this issue. We need actors and musicians to speak out against gun violence.
And "Movie Nerds"-- we need you too!
You know the name of Han Solo's ship, shouldn't you know who your congressperson is too? Figure that out and figure out how they vote. Then register to vote in time for the election season. Then we must all stop shopping at grocery stores with gun industry connections such as Shaws, Star, Safeway, Albertson's and OSCO, all owned by Cerberus Capital Management, maker of Bushmaster AR15 assault weapons. Then in November, together, we will become single-issue voters and we will vote out the Darth Vaders of Congress. When our politicians don't care about the only thing we truly have -- our lives -- we must hold them accountable.
Until we are safe in our schools, our houses of worship, our holiday parties, our shopping centers and theaters, there is no other issue that is more important. We must force our state and national politicians to prioritize gun violence prevention as urban industrial Massachusetts has done so successfully. The Commonwealth has enacted bi-partisan laws to reduce gun deaths, and gun deaths are down 60 percent below 1994 rates. We must do the same thing at the national level and reclaim our right to be safe from the scourge of gun violence that is perpetuated through unrestricted access to military assault weapons, high capacity ammunition magazines and easily concealed handguns. For too long we've allowed our national gun policy to be gun purchases without background checks or detection by law enforcement.
Together we can make a difference in 2016, or we can sit around for the next four years and debate whether to wait for Star Wars to come out on video. The choice is ours.