I am so proud of every one of the brave young survivors and opponents of gun violence, organizers, and marchers who will be leading adults in the March For Our Lives and sister marches across the nation this Saturday. We have so much work to do to build safe communities for all our children. We must follow our marching by electing leaders at all levels of government who will protect children, not guns and stand up to the NRA for every child’s right to live and learn free of gun violence. But that will not happen until mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, neighbors and faith leaders, young voters, and everyone who believes children have a right to grow up safely stands up together with our extraordinary young people in communities across America. We must together make a mighty ruckus for as long as it takes to break the gun lobby’s veto on common sense gun policy.
Until we shake off our sense of hopelessness and exile apathy to our trashcans in the face of persistent tragedy and bullying by the gun lobby, Congress and state legislatures will continue to do the NRA’s bidding, putting their perceived political self-interest ahead of the lives of our children and families and others they are sworn to represent and protect. It’s way past time to combine “thoughts and prayers” with action and vote out those who place protecting guns higher than protecting babies, children, teens, mothers and fathers, and the public safety of all. It’s way past time for the American people to retire the NRA as the self-appointed head of national security and the leading threat to public health and assure the safety of our children and families everywhere in America. We need a relentless, powerful collective vision and voice joining with young people who are unafraid to lead the way.
Here are ten key facts to know and share with others during and after the March For Our Lives:
|Children and Teens Are Dying From Guns in Schools and Communities Every Day|
|1.||3,128 children and teens were killed with a gun in 2016, enough to fill 156 classrooms of 20 children.|
|2.||A child or teen was killed with a gun every 2 hours and 48 minutes.|
|3.||The crisis is getting worse: 2016 marked the greatest number of child and teen gun deaths in ten years.|
|4.||Gun deaths remain the leading cause of death for Black children and teens and second leading cause of death for all children and teens.|
|5.||Guns killed more children under five in 2016 than law enforcement officers in the line of duty.|
|6.||Since 1963, over three times more children and teens died from guns on American soil than U.S. soldiers were killed by hostilities in wars abroad.|
|Common Sense Gun Regulations and Care For Child Life Are Missing in Our Nation|
|7.||Guns are the only consumer product manufactured in the United States exempt from federal health and safety regulations. We regulate toy guns and teddy bears, but do not regulate a product that kills 3,128 children a year and injures many, many more.|
|8.||Current federal background check requirements do not cover sales at gun shows, over the internet, or other private sales.|
|9.||Today, two in three American voters support stricter gun laws, including half of gun owners. Ninety-seven percent of all American voters and gun owners support universal background checks and 67 percent of voters and more than half of gun owners favor a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons.|
|10.||America’s military and law enforcement agencies have about four million guns. Estimates of America’s civilian gun ownership are as high as 310 million.|
The recent school shootings have only reinforced the sad truth that children and teens cannot feel safe anywhere in America. So we are all in the same boat and must act together to stop the plague of violence. Gun safety laws that apply only in one city or state can’t fully stop our national epidemic of gun proliferation and violence any better than we can stop a flu epidemic by vaccinating one family or neighborhood. From inner cities to rural communities to quiet suburbs, child and adult survivors of gun violence all over America pay an unacceptably high price every day.
Guns leave multiple victims: those who die, those who are injured, those who lose family, friends, pastors, and teachers, and those who must care for them. The physical, psychological, and emotional toll of gun violence on victims, bystanders, and families can be overwhelming and leaves effects that last for years or for life. One of the most valuable immediate effects of the March For Our Lives will be the powerful new coalitions forming in communities and states across the country of all those affected by gun violence strengthened by young voices. On Saturday and every day after the March we must keep shouting along with our children and youths: Enough.
All of us – Democrats, Republicans, and independents, gun owners and non-gun owners – must stand up and demand that our leaders treat gun violence in America as the tragic but preventable public health epidemic that it is and take every step necessary to save the lives of our children, families, and all those victimized by relentless, preventable gun violence. Congress must follow the will of the people instead of the will of the NRA and gun manufacturers whose profits are soaked in blood. Our laws, our common public interest, and respect for the sanctity of life for every human being must define common sense gun safety, not the NRA. The March For Our Lives is an extraordinary turning point signaling a new day in America and a new generation of Americans determined to say never again.
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to staging.childrensdefense.org.
Mrs. Edelman’s Child Watch Column also appears each week on Mom’s Rising.