After the spectacular failure of the 113th Congress to pass the Manchin-Toomey Act - a bipartisan gun reform bill proposed in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that, while seriously flawed, was at very least a step in the right direction - a lazy and dangerous narrative began forming:
"Nothing changed after Sandy Hook so nothing's going to change."
It also sometimes went like this:
"If 20 dead first graders doesn't get Congress to act, nothing will."
"Why bother? Nothing's going to happen anyway."
Or, most egregiously:
It quickly became part of the everyday debate about gun rights vs gun safety/gun reform. It joined the ranks of "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" and "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" as a talking point that, when said often enough, becomes believed by many as true.
What sets this statement apart, however, is that it's most often used by people who are on the side of common sense gun reform. People who want to see change take place. People who had their world rocked by Sandy Hook and who felt - perhaps for the first time - that gun violence could actually impact their life and the life of their family.
I get it. People are frustrated and are looking for a quick fix. The stroke of a pen and then, overnight, the country is a safer place and we can all breathe easy.
Thing is, that's fantasy. In a country like ours, with the crappy campaign finance laws we have, change doesn't happen in any manner that remotely resembles speediness. So what starts out being an offhanded sound bite said out of frustration and for dramatic effect becomes a defeatist anthem - and one that could potentially discourage others from engaging.
After all, why bother?
So, with the above in mind, I thought I'd set out to list just some of what actually has changed in the relatively short time since that awful day. I hope that it serves to inform, educate, motivate, and provide fuel for discourse.
1. Moms Demand Action of Gun Sense in America was formed. In less than five years, there are now 4 million supporters and a chapter in every state.
2. 24 states, both red and blue, have passed laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
3. In the 2016 election, gun safety ballot initiatives won in NV, WA and CA, despite NRA opposition.
4. Major companies such as Trader Joe’s, Target, Starbucks and Levis no longer allow open carry inside their stores.
5. Celebrities and public figures are getting involved without fear of backlash.
6. Connecticut passed some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. Violent crime has since dropped 23 percent in Connecticut between 2012 and 2015, and from 2014 to 2015 the state saw its lowest number of incidents since 1967.
7. Seven states have passed laws creating universal background check systems (Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, New York, Connecticut, and Delaware). In these states, people cannot buy a gun if they have a history of mental illness or criminal activity.
In fact, in 2016 alone,
8. Rhode Island passed the ‘Protect Rhode Island Families Act', designed to keep guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers.
9. The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution to formally oppose national “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” - the NRA’s top legislative priority.
10. Oregon's Governor Brown signed Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation into law - which allows courts to temporarily prohibit a person from having a gun if law enforcement or immediate family members show that he or she poses a danger to self or others.
11. Bills that would have forced colleges to allow guns on campus were introduced in 18 states. Sixteen states – AK, AL, AZ, GA, IN, KY, LA, MO, MS, NH, OK, SC, VA, WA, WI and WV – all failed to pass these bills.
12. Bills to allow guns in K-12 schools were introduced in 15 states. Fourteen states – CO, FL, IA, IL, KY, LA, MD, MS, PA, SC, TN, VA, WA and WI all failed to pass these bills.
13. New 'Stand Your Ground' legislation was introduced in six states and failed to pass in five – IA, MD, MN, NE and WA.
14. Facebook changed its policy and now prohibits unlicensed gun sales on Facebook and Instagram.
Is there much more work to be done? Absolutely, especially given that the National Rifle Association contributed over $30 million to the Trump/Pence campaign and, of course, have a long list of ways in which they'd like to be paid back. But the point is, there are enough hurdles in this marathon that we shouldn't be thwarted by ones of our own making.
For ways to take action, visit www.ittakes.us/act.