You may recall that back at the beginning of June there was a national outpouring of concern about gun violence known as Gun Violence Awareness Day symbolized by everyone wearing some orange as a symbol of safety around guns. I wrote a column about the event, or I should say events, because there were more than 200 marches, meetings, concerts and other gatherings all over the United States. And I pointed out that the growth of this movement reminded me of how demonstrations against the Viet Nam War started small and then mushroomed into something really effective and big.
Well the same thing seems to be happening now as regards gun violence, thanks to a whole bunch of gun activists who jumped on last week’s sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives chamber and followed all the Reps back to their home offices so that the energy and desire to do something about gun violence wouldn’t die out. And at last count, there were close to 100 gun violence prevention events held or planned on June 29th in more than 30 states, with more to come.
Some events were held outside the district office of a House Member, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that these events focused on Republican members who openly or otherwise supported Speaker Ryan’s calling the sit-in as a ‘publicity stunt.’ Then there were events hosted by Democratic Members, like New York’s Steve Israel, who joined other advocates and activists in a gun-violence roundtable held at the LGBT Center in his district.
All of these gigs were together planned as a ‘National Day of Action,’ which was so widespread that events were even covered by Fox News. Now let me tell you something, folks. As you may be aware, Fox is the media arm of the Trump campaign, so anything they let fly about guns is usually designed to appeal to Gun-nut Nation, certainly not to people who are out there trying to do something to end gun craziness in the USA. And I’m not saying that Fox is about to cozy up to the Gun Violence Prevention community; what I am saying is that the idea that there is now an organized, national effort to challenge the previously-uncontested strength of pro-gun organizations has become major news.
And what’s really important about the National Day of Action is that there’s more to come. A big event is being planned for July 5th to greet Members of Congress as they return from the Independence Day break to get back to work in DC. The event will be in the form of a ‘Welcome Back’ demonstration at Reagan National Airport coordinated by Brady, Everytown, my good friends at National Cathedral, with more groups to come.
In all the fifty-plus years I have been watching gun violence advocacy, this is the first time that efforts to reduce gun violence are happening on an ongoing basis and on a national stage. And what gets this event a 5-star rating from me is that many of the demonstrations and gatherings were at offices and other locations of Republican office-holders, which is about the last place that anyone would expect to see someone advocating for more control over guns. Until this year, when it comes to gun issues, I can guarantee you that someone like Rep. David Young from Iowa or Bob Latta from Ohio never saw anyone who wasn’t from the NRA.
It’s one thing to hold a rally or a demo in a neighborhood or community of an elected representative who wants to do something about the carnage created by guns. It’s another to show up at an airport or Congressional office in the middle of a district where everyone just ‘loves’ their guns. Preaching to the converted is one thing, making new converts is a much different kind of task. The groups and individuals who have put together and now sustain this national movement have become adept at doing both. And that’s great!