See WAVE’s Lie-In on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel front page.
It’s been one year since the tragedy at Virginia Tech, where 32 innocent people were shot to death. Over this past year, 30,000 other Americans lost their lives to gun violence in shootings at malls, in offices, in city halls, on the streets, and in homes. Shootings happen every day, day after day. In fact, there are so many shootings that we have come to accept them as a normal part of everyday life. But there is nothing normal about the level of gun violence in our country.
No other industrialized country tolerates gun violence the way we do. And, not surprisingly, no other industrialized country suffers the consequences “ the loss of life, the devastation to families, the damage to neighborhoods, the wounding of whole communities. If we continue to quietly accept gun violence, gun violence will continue. But it doesn’t have to. We can prevent gun violence. To begin, we can look to other states and other countries to find solutions that work. And, today, we make a call for those solutions to be implemented here.
One example is requiring criminal background checks prior to all gun sales. Currently in Wisconsin, we make it as easy as possible for criminals to get guns. In fact, in nearly half of all gun sales in Wisconsin, we use no screening system whatsoever. Sales are completed with no paperwork, no identification, and no criminal background check. If we want to prevent bad guys from getting guns, at very least, we must stop allowing these anonymous, no-questions-asked transactions. Conducting background checks prior to all gun sales is the type of solution that will work, and it’s the type of solution that the vast majority of citizens support, including the vast majority of gun owners and NRA members.
I’d like to emphasize that it’s not gun owners standing in the way of smart solutions. The problem is a small, but vocal, group of extremists who are fighting for solutions that are fear-based instead of evidence-based. Their idea of a solution is issuing a call to arms — arm the teachers, arm the city council members, arm the shoppers, arm the students. What they are claiming is that more guns equal less crime. But think about it: If more guns equaled less crime, then with our 270 million privately owned guns, enough guns to arm 90% of the population, America would be the safest country on the planet. But we’re not. Not even close. Trying to end gun violence with more guns is about as foolish as trying to extinguish a fire with a bucket of gasoline. It just doesn’t make sense.
It’s our job to work for real solutions. Let’s start by demanding more leadership and assistance from our elected officials. Right now, far too many of our leaders spend far too much time talking about how they’re going to stand up for gun rights, about how they’re going to fight to protect guns, as though guns are an endangered species. If they want to protect gun rights that’s fine, but they shouldn’t use that as an excuse to ignore their duty to promote public safety.
Protecting gun rights is not a substitute for preventing gun violence. And, if we have elected officials who can’t seem to understand that protecting our kids is at least as important as protecting our gun rights, then it’s our job to elect people who do understand-people who will make a commitment to work with us to create safer communities. We are grateful to all of the people who have already made that commitment.
Statement to the Participants
Living in a country wracked by gun violence is the shame of our past and of our present. But it does not have to be our destiny; it does not have to be the legacy we leave to our children and grandchildren. That’s why we’re here.
Yesterday, we received a note from the Virginia Tech families. They asked us to tell you how very grateful they are that so many people are willing to fight to protect our children and public safety. They wrote that this past year has been very difficult and painful, but that they are uplifted by what you are doing right now.
So today, we are wearing ribbons made by the friends and families of the victims of the Virginia Tech tragedy as a sign that we are sharing their sorrow. We will lie down in silence to grieve for all of the victims guns have silenced. But, after that, we will stand up, with a renewed commitment to never again quietly tolerate gun violence.