Yesterday I posted an editorial on my website by Ladd Everitt, which is a Gun Violence Prevention ‘must read.’ Ladd’s statement is both important and true; namely, that a new age is dawning for GVP thanks to the work, energy and commitment of a host of organizations that have sprung up over the last several years.
Ladd has been promoting GVP for 16 years, my involvement with guns and thinking about gun violence goes back to 1965. And everything Ladd says about the recent growth of GVP is truer than he knows. If he believes there’s been a GVP groundswell recently compared to twenty years ago, why not push the needle back another 30 years and compare then to now? In the mid-70s the estimate for the yearly number of gun deaths was 30,000, roughly the same number we have today with a national population one-third less in size.
But in recognizing what Ladd calls a “constellation of new individuals and groups emerging to assume a bolder posture” on GVP, he also has to acknowledge the lack of coordination and the fact that many important GVP issues (licensing, buybacks, etc.) still do not have organizational champions whose voices can compete with the pro-gun noise. What he wants is a more aggressive, more vocal, more passionate movement that will push the envelope and make use of the growing intensity that he sees emerging within GVP.
I applaud and support Ladd’s desire to see a more aggressive GVP movement and an advocacy strategy that reflects the cultural outlook of the new generation of GVP activists along with their new-found allies in Black Liberation and LGBTQ. But what Ladd didn’t say (and this is in no way a criticism) is that we still have to figure out how to get from here to there. It’s one thing to call for a ‘bolder posture’ in response to the threat posed by Gun-nut Nation and their newly-anointed leader, a.k.a. Street Thug Trump. But it’s quite another to spell out exactly how this posture will move GVP forward from an organizational and tactical point of view.
We need to think of GVP like the United Nations whose membership is comprised of independent organizations that come together, develop and implement an agenda whose goal would be supported by all. It could be run by a Security Council with a Big 5 or Big 6 as permanent members and other members serving on a rotating basis, chosen by votes of everyone else. The organization could be headed by a Secretary-General – I nominate General David Petraeus to start. There could be a Secretariat to produce all the information and data – the Gun Violence Archive is already in place. And we would invite the NRA and NSSF to be observers, they can watch but can’t talk.
Membership in this body would not compromise the independence of any member group. Individual organizations would still continue to map specific agendas, take on GVP issues close to home, continue to do what they do. But utilizing the infrastructures of multiple organizations would allow GVP to define issues in terms of measurable goals, and would bring a weight and presence to the battlefield that would far outweigh the NRA.
In exactly 90 days there will be a watershed event that will transform the landscape for the GVP. Either she will be President and will ask GVP to help craft a serious gun bill because, after all, that’s what her campaign was all about. Or he’ll be President in which case the Oval office will quickly become known as a place that celebrates and promotes gun violence in all ways, shapes and forms.
So we can sit here and talk about this and talk about that, but if we don’t create an organizational structure that translates the this and the that into something tangible and real, we’ll be sitting here a year from now still talking and frankly, I’m too old for that.
This column is a joint effort of myself and Mark Bryant. This is a call to action. We would appreciate your feedback.