Turn Off The Tap: The Only Way To Stop Gun Violence

Every time after one of these shootings, I go through the same stages of outrage. The first is on behalf of the victims, their families, the witnesses, the first responders, the doctors, nurses and hospital staff. The second is fury directed at the NRA and the politicians under their thumb, the politicians they have bought outright and own.

Where it gets tricky and hard to verbalize is when I get to the third stage. In this stage, my exasperation is directed at the gun violence prevention movement and those involved in this type of activism—myself included.

I’m upset simply because what we have been doing all these years does not work. And yet, we keep plodding along, doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results. In other words, the very definition of insanity.

I am done with the focus on the symptoms of gun violence instead of the root cause. We are wasting time arguing semantics. While we argue semantics, someone is getting shot. Never forget that.

Things I have heard since the Florida shooting:

“It’s because kids today see so many violent video games and movies.”

 “If families ate dinner together this wouldn’t happen so often.”

 “We need to do something about kids eating alone at lunch!!”

 “We need to focus on mental health, this is really a mental health issue.”

 These were all said by people in favor of gun violence prevention. (I am not even bothering to address comments said by NRA folks.) We are arguing amongst ourselves of how to fix this unholy mess.

Let’s liken gun violence to a simple household problem, shall we? Say, a bathtub overflowing.

You hear the sound of running water and splashing in your bathroom, and it turns out, your tub is overflowing, with water gushing out of the tap. What we are currently doing is scrambling around, mopping up the water…while the tap keeps flowing.

Someone shouts, “Oh no, the floor is getting wet! Pick up the bathmat!” And we all scurry to save the bathmat and mop the floor, but no one turns off the tap.

As the water begins to drip through the ceiling into the kitchen below, we all scramble to put pots and pans underneath the various leaks to catch the water. But no one turns off the tap.

As the ceiling gives way, we all call the plumbers to come and help us, save us, fix us. But no one turns off the tap.

As the carpets get soaked, we all start worrying about mold. We start ripping things up, calling for mold inspectors and spend hours and hours researching the dangers of black mold. But no one turns off the tap.

Instead, we go online and start shopping for new furniture, posting pictures of our ruined homes, requests for help, and GoFundMe campaigns. #Bathtub starts trending. Someone prints up t-shirts. Someone else organizes a march to raise awareness for flood damage. We gather to draw cards for victims of flooding, we talk and commiserate about all that we have lost and what we can do to change things so the bathtub doesn’t ever overflow again. But still, no one turns off the tap.

Stop. Turn off the tap. Assess the damage. Call for help. Repair. But for the love of God, stop it at the source. Stop wasting time. Stop wasting energy. Stop wasting resources. Stop wasting our voices.

I do not judge the success of a gun violence prevention movement by how many people show up to hear us speak. By how many people are in the picture we’re posting to Facebook.

I judge success by a reduction in shootings– full stop, end of story. And that is not happening. The proof is in the pudding.

When I joined the GVP movement years ago, I was passionate and I wrote about it, I marched, I made signs, I wore t-shirts. I burned up all my babysitting hours to go solo to my state Senator’s office and meet with his staff. I also brought my children with me to certain events, to teach them about advocacy work. I took my kids out of school and my husband and I took them to our state capital to meet with legislators, pleading for common sense gun laws.

And the shootings kept happening.

I went to the annual meeting and spent a weekend with other members of the GVP movement from around the country. I met wonderful, passionate people just like myself, dedicating their time and energy to stopping gun violence. I felt good when I was involved in my organization. I felt like I was really doing something. I enjoyed it. I liked being around like-minded, passionate people. It was soothing in a very troubling time.

And the shootings kept happening.

I spoke up and asked, “What more can we do? Can we try something else instead?” And I was told, no. I was told to just keep doing exactly what I was doing: that was how we were going to fix things. I was told to keep posting pictures of me in my t-shirt on social media. I was told to keep drawing cards to send to survivors and victims’ families. All really kind and wonderful things, but…the shootings kept happening.

When my questioning got to be too much, when I kept asking for opportunities to do more, when I wondered aloud if what we were doing was actually working, I was told, “maybe this isn’t the right group for you.”

So, I left. And I thought about what I had been doing all those hours, all those days, all those weekends and all those years. I think wasting a busy Mom’s time is one of life’s most mundane yet grievous sins. I felt used. I felt like I woke up from a trance, realizing that what I thought of as powerful work was really just me spitting into the wind. I felt embarrassed over how I spread this message throughout my social media feed. And of course…the shootings kept happening.

This last one in Florida, was different, however.

This time, those high school kids are the ones who stood up, called us all out on our ineptitude and woke all of us up with their shouting, their words, their calls to action. We’ve been busy demanding action, but not getting any, while they simply just took action. With a laser-like focus, they called out the only thing we can change: the politicians who make our laws. That’s it. That is all we can do. That is the only thing that will actually, possibly, affect change.

So, I have decided to run for office, like so many other women around the country who were sick of feeling helpless and infuriated. The office I am running for, Chairman of the DuPage County Board, does not vote on gun legislation. The County Board does, however, oversee $439.6 MILLION dollars and decides how to distribute these funds. I can make damn sure not one penny goes towards anything that furthers the NRA’s agenda. I can use my platform to amplify my voice to reach other politicians who vote on gun laws. I will do my very best to win my seat and also to unseat all NRA-backed local politicians, like Congressman Peter Roskam, my personal political nemesis for several years now. 

I love the expression, “where your attention goes, energy flows.” I believe that. And I realized, I was putting my attention on all the symptoms of gun violence. I was chasing after Congressman Peter Roskam, giving him my attention and therefore, my energy. I realize that I had it all backwards: now, I give my attention, and therefore my energy, towards the candidates running against him in the midterm election.

Because here is the thing: we will never, ever change these politicians’ hearts, minds or votes. And we don’t have the time to try anymore. It didn’t work. Now our priority needs to be stopping these massacres by voting these irresponsible politicians out of office.

We need to prove, decisively, in the voting booth that the NRA association is toxic and career-ending.

We need to show politicians that if they agree to dance with the NRA, it means they lose the election.

We need to make NRA cooties so toxic, no politician would ever want their name linked with that organization.

We need to make it so being backed by the NRA would be like if an actor were offered a starring role in a new movie written by Woody Allen, directed by Roman Polanski and produced by Harvey Weinstein: no one in their right mind would ever say yes to that anymore. Not after the impact of the #MeToo movement.

When I sat down with Congressman Roskam, he looked me in the eye and told me he did not need to listen to his constituents. They elected him, thereby giving him carte blanche to carry out his agenda. That’s what being an elected official means to him. When someone tells you who they are– over and over– believe them. I believe him. I will no longer protest in front of his office. It doesn’t matter how many signs we carry, how many times we stand there, shouting slogans. He. Will. Not. Vote. Differently.

And besides, I don’t have the time. I will instead, run for office myself and actively, passionately and loudly support every other candidate who is going to unseat these impotent politicians who are guilty of doing nothing in the face of all these mass shootings through their inaction.

This brings me back to these students from Parkland High School. What if we didn’t interfere and we simply let these teenagers lead us? They speak more clearly than we do because they are motivated by the very real terror of being shot in their classrooms. Plus, they don’t have these muddled viewpoints from trying to be politically correct (i.e., “I don’t want to upset my tennis friends who vote republican,” or “No, Paul is a good dude, he just likes guns.”). They don’t agonize over social graces, because they don’t have a filter firmly in place yet. They are speaking their minds and speaking from their hearts, directly. They can say loud and clearly: Vote these people out of office!

Let’s listen to them. Let’s not co-opt their movement. This is their moment. It is not about us right now. We’ve had our chance– and we blew it, big time. Now they get a turn at bat.

I am done with the focus on the symptoms of gun violence instead of the root cause. We are wasting time arguing semantics. While we argue semantics, someone is getting shot. Never forget that.

Repeat after me: change will only happen through legislation. Legislation will only happen when we vote NRA-backed politicians out of office. Voting for new gun laws will only happen by electing politicians who are determined to pass new laws. That’s it.

And the light is at the end of the tunnel! Focus on the midterms. Pull out all the stops until November, by getting behind the candidate of your choice. We do not have the time for anything else right now. This is an emergency situation. We need to be laser-focused on winning elections. That is how we will stop the killings.

If you’d like to take the mantle back up after November, go for it, but we can’t afford to splinter off into various groups with various causes right now because you know who is laser-focused on one thing and one thing only? The NRA.

Where can you put your attention so that energy flows towards a solution instead of highlighting a problem? We know there is a problem. We don’t need to worry about educating people anymore. We know. We all know. Now, we need a solution. We need to fix it. We need change. We need politicians who aren’t beholden to the NRA.

What if, instead of protesting outside am NRA-backed politician’s office, we assembled at the headquarters of a gun-sense candidate and signed people up to volunteer?

What if, instead of drawing cards and taking selfies, we became a Precinct Captain and got people registered to vote?

What if, instead of marching to let everyone know we don’t like mass shootings, we marched with the candidate of our choice who will turn the tide?

What if, instead of donating our money to a gun violence prevention group we gave it directly to a candidate who will actually change laws?

What if we put our attention on what we can do, on what we want– instead of putting it on the problem or on what we don’t want?

Isn’t it worth a try to do something different? We are not insane, so let’s stop doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Our way has not worked. The shootings have not stopped. They haven’t lessened in any way. We need to try a different way. Admit it. Own it. Let it go. Move on. Be a leader, not a lemming.

There are some people who are going to say, “why not do both? Why not give my time, energy and passion to a gun violence prevention group and back candidates? I can walk and chew gum at the same time, you know.”

Yes, I know you can and I can, too. But I don’t know many people who have unlimited sources of time, energy and finances who can do it all. When we choose one, we are often not choosing another cause. Choose wisely. Choose differently.

 

1 Comment
  1. Laura 10 months ago

    Yes! I found your blog post on Facebook today and am so comforted that they’re individuals who are taking the matter into their own hands and are running themselves! I wish I could vote for you, but I wish you all the success in your campaign! Thanks for representing all of our voices for GVP!

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