It probably goes without saying but most of us who are involved in service and advocacy organizations – both as volunteers and professionals – want to have an impact on the world around us. We want to make a difference on the issues we care about, for the communities we are part of, and for the betterment of society.
So it is deeply frustrating, to say the least, when a matter of deep importance like dealing with the scourge of gun violence becomes so intractable that it feels like no one can have an impact. It isn’t just that in the wake of the massacre at Pulse, Congress still is unable to come together to close the loophole that allows people on the ‘no fly’ list to buy weapons. I don’t know why anyone was surprised by this given that after the slaughter of 20 children (and six adults) at Sandy Hook Elementary School they didn’t act to restore the assault weapons ban. And, of course, all of this intractability continues despite the death of 91 Americans by gun violence EVERY SINGLE DAY.
It is easy enough to rail against the brokenness of Washington – to blame hyper-partisanship, special interests, redistricting rules, campaign finance, the breakdown of our political discourse, and all the other factors over the past 30 years that have led to this inability of Congress to act (on seemingly anything) in recent years – and we should. But we also want to get something done, now, for those 91 people every day and to prevent the next mass shooting, which is any and almost every day now.
That’s why we’ve focused on ways to address gun violence that don’t depend on Congressional action. We worked to pass the Massachusetts Gun Violence Prevention Act in 2014. It is no coincidence that, while our Commonwealth now has some of the toughest gun regulations in the nation, we also have amongst the lowest rates of gun violence as well. Because smart, reasonable state laws do make a difference, and should be a model to the nation.
But we’re not done and – much as it has been a wonder to watch C-SPAN this past week and appreciate the efforts of several members of our own congressional delegation – we’re still not waiting on Congress.
We know that the public sector purchases 40% of guns in the U.S. and therefore has tremendous leverage to affect the gun industry. So for the past three years, as part of the Do Not Stand Idly By campaign, along with our interfaith partners across the country, we’re working to get public officials to leverage their power as consumers in order to engage the CEOs of major gun manufacturers to adopt safer practices.
Of the 92 Mayors, Police Chiefs and Attorneys General who’ve joined the campaign nationwide, 10 are from Massachusetts, including Mayor Marty Walsh and Police Commissioner Bill Evans of Boston, Mayor Setti Warren of Newton, MA Attorney General Maura Healey, among others.
We urged President Obama to use his power to make a difference, and he responded. A series of executive actions he made earlier this year could pave the way for a smart gun industry. A month ago, Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Evans attended a Fifty State gathering at the White House to begin to establish a baseline for a smart gun market. Days later, Do Not Stand Idly By leaders met in the White House with key officials in the administration to discuss the next steps of this strategy. We are working together to change the way Americans and, law enforcement in particular, do business with the gun industry.
We are making progress, but we need your involvement to make an impact. This July, Do Not Stand Idly By will engage the CEOs of major U.S. gun manufacturers to adopt safer practices. Yes, Congress must wake up and do their job. But given that they are not, our task is to seek other creative paths forward. We will not allow gun manufacturers to remain immune to the crisis and fallout of mass shootings, accidental shootings, and shootings on our streets. Please add your name to the letter below that faith leaders will send, alongside a letter from 92 Mayors, Police Chiefs and others, to CEOs of seven major U.S. gun manufacturers.
Together we all have a role to play and an opportunity to make a difference!
Dear [Gun Manufacturer CEO],
It is time that you provided leadership to curb gun-related deaths in America.
There are two things your company can do, on its own volition, to make America safer.
You can make guns safer through the use of smart-gun technology and other safety technologies.
And you can distribute guns responsibly by ensuring that each dealer your company uses as a sales outlet is committed to keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.
Public-sector leaders across America — mayors, police chiefs, sheriffs, county executives, attorneys general, governors and others — have asked for your leadership in these areas.
As taxpayers, these officials make purchases of firearms on our behalf. They make these purchases for one reason only: to protect public safety.
We ask that you respond to these reasonable requests from your public-sector customers and from citizens, who are asking you to be allies in protecting public safety. Your leadership can save many lives.