On February 14 the gun debate in the United States was forever changed because of the terrible shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since the shooting, teenagers from that high school and thousands of other students from across the country have strongly advocated for common sense gun reforms. Student activism should be strongly encouraged and applauded, as these young people are making their voices heard on a topic that has unfortunately touched the lives of countless people.
Fortunately for these students they are not marching alone; grandmothers across the country have joined the fight for reasonable gun control measures. During the massive March for Our Lives protest, that saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets of Washington, D.C. and across the globe to protest gun violence; senior citizens were marching right alongside everyone else. In Washington, D.C. a group of grandmothers banded together to show their support. These grandmothers protested for two and half hours to condemn the National Rifle Association (NRA), support universal background checks and labeled themselves “grannies for gun control.”
“We want to get people’s attention. So we made sure to include some signs that people might find upsetting. You know, things like ‘’bury guns, not kids.’ If that makes you uncomfortable, good,” Tina Hobson, one of the protesters, told the Washington Post.
Senior activism regarding gun control is nothing new. Grandmothers Against Gun Violence (GAGV), a group from Seattle, has been fighting since 2013 for gun reform. Inspired by the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Margaret Heldering, president of GAGV, and three of her friends (all grandmothers of kids 6 and 7 at the time) started GAGV in order to contribute to our national dialogue about gun control. Today, GAGV has grown from four members to more than 700.
GAGV’s work embodies the following principles: 1) Closing the gun sale loophole and requiring universal background checks on gun sales; 2) banning the sale of high capacity ammunition magazines; 3) banning the sale of military style assault weapons; and 4) safe storage of guns. Their accomplishments and passion for trying to bring about positive change is laudable. For instance, they have organized a mayoral debate in Seattle regarding gun violence, donated $10,000 to firearm research and have visited with law makers.
Gun violence impacts more than just our countries’ grandchildren, but also senior citizens. B’nai B’rith International serving as the largest national Jewish sponsor of subsidized housing in the United States, with 38 buildings in 28 communities, unfortunately has to train staff members of our buildings on active shooter drills. We have worked with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and outside experts to teach our building’s staff members on best practices in the event of an active shooter. Staff members who attended, were able to create an emergency preparedness plan for potential active shooters in the building. “In the United States shootings don’t happen in a vacuum. Staff members who work for senior communities need to be trained on the proper procedures in case they are confronted with a potential active shooter. And training should not stop for when the shooter has been neutralized, buildings need to be aware of how traumatized residents will be and how best to respond with counseling,” B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services Associate Director Janel Doughten said.
Given the horrible impact that occurs in the United States from gun violence, I still can’t understand why groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) take such a militant approach towards reasonable gun reform. These types of organizations like to point to the second amendment, and how gun control measures for military style assault weapons are an encroachment on people’s freedom. Let’s say for the sake of argument we accept the NRA’s position that the second amendment does allow someone to own a firearm. Okay, having said that, why can’t we have reasonable restrictions for weapons whose only purpose is for war? As noted above, GAGV has some pretty fair and reasonable restrictions on gun sales. Does anyone really need to own a military style weapon? Does it really violate the second amendment and impinge on people’s freedom to close the gun show loophole?
While certain members of Congress’ response to gun violence over the years have been woefully inadequate, hopefully our elected representatives can learn from the oldest and youngest members of our society. It’s great that Americans are coming together like never before to make their voices heard regarding gun violence. Seniors and students have done a great job of pushing the gun reform movement, which has unfortunately been stagnant in Congress for far too long.
Evan Carmen, Esq. is the Assistant Director for Aging Policy at the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services. He holds a B.A. from American University in political science and a J.D. from New York Law School. Prior to joining B’nai B’rith International he worked in the Office of Presidential Correspondence for the Obama White House, practiced as an attorney at Covington and Burling, LLP, worked as an aide for New York City Council Member Tony Avella and interned for Congressman Gary Ackerman’s office. Click here to read more from Evan Carmen.
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