Gun violence is preventable. And yet, when there is a mass shooting — or any shooting — we mostly hear the same tired, do-nothing messages: It is too soon to talk about it, thoughts and prayers, and then comes the next shooting or mass shooting and it’s wash, rinse, repeat, and move on.
I am tired of moving on.
For years, I’ve worn my red t-shirt and been part of the crowd with Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization started by Shannon Watts after the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, where 20 six- and seven-year-olds and six adults were murdered in minutes.
But after the mass shooting at Old National Bank in Louisville, preceded by the mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville and paired with seemingly daily gun deaths in Kentucky, I called Cathy Hobart, the leader of Moms Demand Action in Kentucky, and asked what I could do to help. Communications! she said.
Wear Orange events this week
Here is what you need to know about upcoming community gatherings to honor survivors and those whose lives were stolen by gun violence. Wear Orange is an annual, national event to bring awareness to the epidemic of gun violence.
Frankfort: Thursday, June 1, 11:30 a.m. on the Franklin County Courthouse steps, 222 St. Clair Street. Mayor Lane Wilkerson and Judge Executive Michael Mueller will sign a joint proclamation declaring Friday, June 2, as National Gun Violence Awareness Day in Frankfort and Franklin County.
Elizabethtown: Friday, June 2, 5 p.m. at the Pritchard Community Center, 404 S. Mulberry St. We will be making Care Cards to send to survivors and Bags of Belonging (decorating tote bags with fabric paint for local police departments, used to hand over the belongings of someone who has passed away).
Lexington: Saturday, June 3, 2 p.m. at Woodland Park, 601 East High St., near the gazebo. Speakers include Police Chief Lawrence Weathers, Sheriff Kathy Witt, Devine Carama from One Lexington, Moms Demand Action leaders, and survivors of gun violence.
Louisville: Saturday, June 3, 1:30 p.m. at Chickasaw Park. Speakers include a family member of Tyler Gerth; Sherita Smith, the mother of 16-year-old Tyree Smith who was gunned down at the bus stop; District 3 Councilman Kumar Rashad; and District 1 Councilwoman Tammy Hawkins. We will join the moment of silence at 2:30 p.m. in conjunction with an event at Louisville Slugger to honor all victims of gun violence and the shootings at Old National Bank and Chickasaw Park. This event is co-sponsored by The ACE Foundation and the Kentucky Chapter of Moms Demand Action.
To find a Wear Orange location near you, text Orange to 644-33.
I spent most of February and March at the State Capitol and Annex where I had a front row seat to what our GOP supermajority did do, did not do, and how they behaved. I found so many of their actions shocking and irresponsible that I testified for the first time, twice — against college campus conceal/carry (which, thankfully, failed) and against Kentucky becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary (which passed).
Meanwhile guns — not books, not transgender youth, not bathrooms, not rainbow-themed toys — are the number one killer of children.
According to a recent FOX News poll, the majority of Americans want new laws:
- Criminal background checks on gun buyers (87%)
- Improve enforcement of existing gun laws (81%)
- Raise the legal age to buy a gun to 21 (81%)
- Mental health checks on gun buyers (80%)
- Allow police to take guns from those considered a danger to themselves or others (80%)
- 30-day waiting period for all gun purchases (77%)
And then there is the AR-15, a weapon of war, not sport. Data suggests “that since many gun owners have multiple weapons, the total number of AR-15s in American hands could be as high as 44 million.”
As I was writing this column, it was reported that a 16 year-old in Mississippi “was armed with what police called an ‘AR-15 rifle’ and an 80-round-capacity magazine.”
That our GOP lawmakers were so keen in the 2023 General Assembly to make laws protecting guns and hurting human beings was, in a word, repulsive.
My work for the rest of this year will be to help teach my fellow, fed-up Kentuckians how to show up and lobby legislators in Frankfort for common sense gun regulations. Please, please join me in this fight to save lives. We can do more. So let’s do it.
We often hear we can’t stop all gun violence, a nonsensical argument. We can’t stop all people from drinking and driving either, but we have effective laws that vary state to state. When Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) “was founded at a kitchen table in 1980, 25,000 people died in these preventable crashes every year. Today, drunk driving kills about 10,000 people a year.”
Just because we can’t save every life does not mean we can’t save most lives and change the way we live with and think about guns.
Two years ago, a good friend died by suicide with a firearm. She was in crisis and there was the gun. Without immediate and easy access to that gun, we believe she would still be with us today. In her honor, I will attend the Wear Orange gatherings in Frankfort and Lexington. I hope to see you there.