Editor’s note: The following was prepared for a vigil following the killing of a young woman in Wisconsin. It was submitted to the Empire as a My Turn by its author. It has not been published elsewhere.
The constant stream of news about gun carnage, school shootings, assaults on synagogues and concert goers is already in bold print in the record books. But that’s not just why we are here. We are here to grieve the loss of family and friends to gun violence. We are here because our children now practice active shooter drills after reciting the pledge of allegiance in school. Because we don’t know if the next movie or concert we go to will end by fleeing in panic from gun fire.
We are here because the gun industry pedals guns like the tobacco industry pedals nicotine — like the pharmaceutical industry pushes opioids. We have become a culture of fanaticism with guns where firearms are now an extension of our personalities and emotions. And there is a sales pitch for every emotion whether real or exaggerated. The gun industry has preyed on the most primal instinct of our human nature, anger and fear, to exploit the privilege of owning and possessing firearms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the constitution. They have translated this fear and anger into our everyday vocabulary to rationalize buying and carrying guns. Vocabulary like: castle doctrine, stand your ground, carry conceal, open carry, right to defend myself and my family, defend my property, don’t tread on me, the only answer to a bad guy having a gun is a good guy having a gun. As all brilliant marketing strategies go, millions of new guns continue to flow into society each year and millions upon millions of used guns are bought, stolen and traded as well. The profits are enormous.
Beside me is a bell which in a moment will chime three times:
The first chime will be in remembrance of all the slain victims of gun violence. To offer our unwavering love and support for survivors who have no closure but can only hope to ease the anguish that will last a lifetime or generations.
The second chime is for the moment we are living in. Here and now we resolve to make the status quo unacceptable. To believe in yourself and as a community that we are not powerless to make a change.
The third chime is the call to action. We are of like minds and goals and we are the majority. Our vocabulary is going to be one of peace and freedom from violence. We are of the vast majority of Americans who want sensible gun legislation to rein in the terror of firearms violence, beginning with legislation in the form of universal background checks and red flag doctrine. Our resolve to take action is moral one, humane one and yes political. We are going to exercise our democracy to legislate this new order for the majority or go to the poles and elect a majority of legislators with the democratic principles to legislate change.
Please observe a moment of silence after the third chime.
• Paul Miller is a retired police officer, who spent his whole career as an officer. He is an avid hunter, fisher and gun owner. He has family who reside in Juneau.