Barely more than an hour after our nation took a moment of silence this morning to reflect on the tragic events that took place in Newtown, Connecticut last week, the National Rifle Association ended their organization’s own silence by telling us that the mindless violence we saw is simply now a part of life. They said that it was Hollywood's fault that incidents like these happen and that the only way we can hope to keep our children safe as a result is to keep them surrounded by more and more guns.
As a Mom who holds the safety and happiness of my two girls above all else, I have only one response to NRA President Wayne LaPierre: How dare you?
How dare you tell me, and millions of other Moms, that the only way we can keep our kids safe is to surround them with more instruments of violence?
How dare you tell our nation that Congress is to blame for not keeping a database of the mentally-ill when your organization's lobbying efforts have been responsible for blocking all meaningful gun control measures in recent years?
And how dare you tell our kids that the only way we know how to keep them safe is to hope someone shoots first before someone else shoots them?
We, as a people, are better than that.
We are a nation that has persevered through tragedies and triumphs alike by being brave, not by being afraid as Mr. LaPierre wants us to be. His solution to violence is to ensure more violence, his own perceived right kind of violence, but all Mr. LaPierre's solution would accomplish in ensuring our children grow up believing there is no hope to stop the violence.
As a Mom, the NRA’s comments offend me. As a leader in Michigan’s Capitol, they anger me.
What Mr. LaPierre doesn’t want to acknowledge is that there are no quick or easy solutions to the violence we see in our schools and on our streets, but it is our job as leaders to challenge ourselves to find them and he simply does not want to be a part of that effort. Instead, he wants to pretend that his organization has nothing to do with the problem at hand, but would be happy to sell us the miracle cure for the right price.
It’s time we put the politics aside in this discussion and agree that while guns themselves may not be the cause of what took place last week in Connecticut, we cannot pretend they had nothing to do with it either.
We must begin by enacting the common sense reforms that keep assault rifles, weapons designed for the sole purpose of mass killings, off the market and ensure that those with a history of mental illness do not have access to guns.
But we must challenge ourselves to go further and rebuild our mental health system that we’ve allowed to crumble over the years so that those who need our help can receive it once again. We can give those who are prone to violence care instead of indifference and hope instead of despair. And we can show the world that we, as a people, are finding the solutions necessary to make our society a less violent one for all of us to live in.
Most importantly, we must show our kids that we can be better and stronger than Mr. LaPierre wants us to be. We can show them that we can create an environment in which our schools are safe places once again not because we’ve locked them down, but because we’ve fostered a change in ourselves and our society that ensures what took place in Newtown, Connecticut never happens again.
We can be an example to our kids that even in the face of unspeakable violence, we can overcome it with the same bravery that our nation has shown throughout history.
We can succeed in this effort, but only if we have the courage and strength of character to do it. I choose to believe that we do.