Who are we as Americans?

I know writing a blog post about my feelings to a small audience won’t accomplish anything to curb gun violence. What I could do today though was dig into statistics, distill them, and provide their sources. Whatever we do individually to educate ourselves and inform our actions can potentially have a collective impact.

Firearms became the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers in 2020.

This sad fact represents a major shift in risks for young people in the U.S. For over 60 years, car accidents were the leading cause of death for kids and teens. Car accidents are now number two, while drug overdoses are number three.  —TIME MAGAZINE

45,222 firearm-related deaths in the U.S. in 2020

4,358 in total—were children

“It takes a monster to kill children. But to watch monsters kill children again and again and do nothing isn’t just insanity — it’s inhumanity.”

Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate

1994 the assault weapons ban went into effect—there were about 400,00 AR-15 rifles in America then.

In 2004 the federal ban on assault weapons expired.

Today, there are 20 million.

Assault weapons are military-style firearms intended to fire multiple rounds in quick succession – killing people quickly with little effort. They can be used with detachable magazines that can fire more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Assault weapons were primarily designed for use in war and battlefields. But because there’s no federal restriction on the sale of these weapons, civilians have been able to purchase assault weapons to carry out some of our nation’s deadliest mass shootings.  —SANDY HOOK PROMISE

This is a hostage situation…Pew Research shows that 81% of Americans believe in some common-sense gun laws.

Here’s a link to the congressmen and senators who benefit the most by NOT supporting what their constituents want in gun policy.

https://elections.bradyunited.org/take-action/nra-donations-116th-congress-senators

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:

GUNS AS LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH: https://www.npr.org/2022/04/22/1094364930/firearms-leading-cause-of-death-in-children

TIME MAGAZINE: https://time.com/6170864/cause-of-death-children-guns/

EDUCATION WEEK/27 SCHOOL SHOOTINGS THIS YEAR ALONE: https://www.edweek.org/leadership/school-shootings-this-year-how-many-and-where/2022/01

ASSAULT WEAPONS: —Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, May 26th—Subscribe on Substack for a daily email that puts news from a historical perspective from a historian. https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/

SANDY HOOK PROMISE: https://actionfund.sandyhookpromise.org/issues/gun-safety/magazine-capacity-limits/?_ga=2.147810295.1346543022.1653831698-1939731440.1653831698

TEXT OF ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN BILL IN 1994: https://www.congress.gov/bill/103rd-congress/house-bill/4296/text

EXTREME RISK LAWS empower law enforcement and, depending on the jurisdiction, family members, health professionals, and school administrators, among others, to work with courts to temporarily remove firearms from those who pose a danger to themselves or others. Extreme risk laws have the power to prevent suicides, mass shootings, and interpersonal violence.  (Note: only 19 states have these laws on the books.)

EXTREME RISK LAWS: https://everytownresearchorg/rankings/law/extreme-risk-law/

...The Pew polling found that significant majorities of Americans support background checks (81 percent), an assault-weapons ban (63 percent), and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines (64 percent); a majority also opposes concealed carry of weapons without a permit. Majorities of Republicans who don’t own guns shared those opinions, as did Democratic gun owners, by even more lopsided margins. Even most Republicans who do own guns said in the polling that they support background checks and oppose permitless concealed carry (which more red states, including Texas, are authorizing). 

Despite all of this, Republican elected officials, in their near-lockstep opposition to gun control, have bent to groups like the NRA in equating almost any restrictions as a sign of disrespect to the values of red America.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/05/senate-state-bias-filibuster-blocking-gun-control-legislation/638425/

John Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions: https://publichealth.jhu.edu/departments/health-policy-and-management/research-and-practice/center-for-gun-violence-solutions

FOLLOW THE MONEY $$$$$$$$$: https://elections.bradyunited.org/take-action/nra-donations-116th-congress-senators

FOLLOW THE MONEY: The majority of Americans support stronger gun laws — laws that are proven to reduce deaths. But in 2019, the NRA spent $3.22 million to benefit the political campaigns of senators who oppose gun safety legislation. In 2020, they spent $2.20 million. These senators refuse to support common-sense gun reform, like expanding Brady Background Checks and banning assault weapons.  https://elections.bradyunited.org/take-action/nra-donations-116th-congress-senators

Happy 6th of July…

After cookouts, laughs, conversations, parades, playing lawn games, hiking, swimming, boating, and beer drinking—we’re back to reality today. On July 4th, before our annual Corn Hole Tournament, my husband read the second paragraph of The Declaration of Independence before the first bag was tossed.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all people are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights—among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

—The Declaration of Independence

As I walked toward the Cape Cod Bay this morning, I thought about what the 6th of July means to me and the words my husband read Sunday afternoon. All people are created equal…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Those five words…all people are created equal, although masterfully aspirational, sadly do not describe America—past or present.

“…democracy isn’t top down. “Each day, we’re reminded there’s nothing guaranteed about our democracy, nothing guaranteed about our way of life,” he said. “We have to fight for it, defend it, earn it…. It’s up to all of us to protect the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; the right to equal justice under the law; the right to vote and have that vote counted; the right…. to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and know that our children and grandchildren will be safe on this planet for generations to come… the right to rise in the world as far as your God-given [talent] can take you, unlimited by barriers of privilege or power.”

Heather Cox Richardson/Letters from an American July 5th

You can subscribe to historian, Heather Cox Richardson’s daily email, Letters from an American with this link. It will take you to a screen that looks like the image below.

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/

4th of July 2017—Sandwich, Mass

The Sandwich 4th of July celebration is always a special event, but 2017 had some extra magic.  It was a truly grand day from start to finish.

The Parade 10am

Field Days (the egg toss is a favorite)

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Dale and the Duds at the bandstand on Shawme Pond

The Boat Parade (a 102 year old tradition)

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Fireworks over Shawme Pond for the 1st time in 38 years

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Seeking Middle Ground

I think our civilization clearly depends upon finding some middle ground.  I know my own family isn’t talking as much because of the polarized political climate.  We may be reaching a tipping point of sorts, at least that’s what it feels like to me.  I’m hopeful that we can shift course.  I believe in the goodness of our shared humanity.

MIDDLE GROUND; a standpoint or area midway between extreme or opposing positions, options, or objectives (Merriam Webster)

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We are living in unprecedented times.  A time of chaotic polarity in our civic lives. The lack of middle ground is causing stress to the many systems we all operate in; family, community, government and work.  My husband and I are trying to hold some middle ground and manage the stress and anxiety in our home.  We’re listening to our children and trying to offer counterpoints to the dizzying array of sound bites & headlines out there fighting for our attention every minute of every day. 

I don’t think I’ve hidden my politics from anyone, however, my moderation might be surprising.  Labels are easier for all of us than asking questions or being curious about the WHY of someone’s beliefs.  We’re ALL guilty of not asking questions and making too many assumptions about others.

I grew up in a very conservative family in the South Dakota.  I have deep knowledge of how political beliefs are shaped from both sides of the political aisle.  My paternal Grandfather, Louis Lillibridge was an intellectual and a moderate—in my estimation anyway.  Grandpa could consider a lot of competing ideasHe studied other religions and ideologies.  He read constantly.  I adored him for many reasons, but mostly I felt heard by him.  Don’t we all want to be heard even if people don’t agree with us?

We can’t really be heard if we aren’t willing to listen too.

My politics were left leaning before I left conservative Sioux Falls College (now the University of Sioux Falls) in 1988.  For my family it was easier to blame my democratic husband who hailed from Massachusetts than to believe I was an outlier.  My first experience out of college was to move to New Zealand and work at a non-denominational Christian Radio Station (Radio Rhema) http://www.rhema.co.nz/.  My friends were from all over the world and it was fascinating.  I actually met the King of Tonga.  I heard stories from so many unique perspectives and experiences.  This time in my life greatly shaped my personal beliefs.  Travel made the world seem quite small in some ways, completely accessible and ready for exploration.

I consider myself proudly American AND a global citizen.  My early travel opportunites had a big affect on my choices.  It eventually led me to Burlington, Vermont, where I’ve lived since New Year’s Day 1990.  Our community is rich with diversity and I feel it’s been quite an education for myself and my family.

My daughters have friends from all over the world (including Muslim children, many who spent time in refuge camps).  They’ve heard interesting stories since early elementary school from their classmates.  This is simply our family’s circumstance of living in Burlington, Vermont.  I acknowledge that not having contact with people of various nationalities, who dress, speak, and worship differently can make people more fearful.  I do understand this from growing up in rural South Dakota AND I don’t pretend to understand what other people feel about this issue.  I’m only speaking from my own experience.

When I wrote and asked about the opposite of FEAR last week there were so many thoughtful responses; acceptance, curiosity, love, hope, community and Mark P. wrote; “ACTIONABLE FAITH is the opposite of fear.”   I love the idea of actionable faith and that sounds a lot like curiosity to me.

 

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Right now in American life, it’s seems convenient to align ourselves with our political teams and operate in MOB MENTALITY.  Reciting talking points from the side we’ve taken without listening isn’t real dialogue and won’t ever promote deeper understanding. 

The significantly more challenging and intellectually exhausting space is to take a breath, listen to your own thought and those of others and try to find some middle ground.  It’s really uncomfortable to differentiate ourselves and our views when it puts us at odds with our team or the people we care about.  Uncomfortable, but really necessary.

America, our democracy is calling.

telephone-for-blog

Let’s get curious about each other.