We Win When We Resist Together: Activism Versus Gun Violence

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National Rifle Association (NRA) leader Wayne La Pierre --on defensive

In the spring of 1960, I was a senior at Spelman College in Atlanta and decided to help organize the civil rights student sit-in movement to desegregate lunch counters.

I went to Atlanta’s City Hall to engage in our cause to end racial apartheid. I felt overwhelming gratitude for the chance to be part of something larger than myself or our campus. My college diary captured a bit of the excitement of those days:

Now as never before is the chance offered to do something. This is a history-making epoch where we – me – the young – can be major characters. Now is the time to act – to work – to sacrifice…

Change is pervading – change I’m helping bring in. I’m useful and I’m serving and I’m so thankful.

We are making history. We are taking upon ourselves the problems of the time and what a good burden.

Today hundreds of thousands of students are taking on the burden of their and our time – where adults have failed to act to protect children from guns. The scenes from the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C. and the more than 800 sibling marches around the country and the world signal hope, inspiration, optimism and the confidence of a new generation of young leaders and activists. I can only imagine how many of these young people feel empowered and blessed as I did by finding their call to serve, work, sacrifice and make history.

It was wonderful to see children of all ages participate, the youngest being Dr. King’s 9-year-old granddaughter. He would be so proud of her as she stood on stage saying “Enough!” Special memories, tears and chants of anger – Not One More! Vote Them Out! were shared for the lives and hurt that remain with all left behind. There were powerful homemade signs – Will I Be Next? Arms Are for Hugging! My Life is More Important Than Your Guns! Fear Has No Place in Our Schools! Restrict the Piece, Reserve the Peace! We Are Students, We Are Change! And a Little Child Will Lead Them! Watching it all gave such a sense of togetherness for all those who gathered whether it was in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, New York City, Los Angeles, Wichita, Miami, Philadelphia, or in dozens of other cities across the country and around the world.

We must move forward together to keep our children safe. As part of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)’s longstanding work to Protect Children, Not Guns, we have released an updated factsheet on The Truth About Guns, debunking common myths and sharing 11 truths we should all know and act upon. Consider just one: Guns make violence more deadly. Contrary to what the gun industry says, guns do kill people. Guns make killing easy, efficient, and somewhat impersonal, thereby making anger and violence more deadly. An estimated 41 percent of gun-related homicides and 94 percent of gun-related suicides would not occur if no guns were present. The use of a gun in family or intimate assaults increases the risk of death 12 times.

The Truth About Guns shows the effectiveness of common sense gun safety laws and the benefits of restrictions that regulate guns and vigorous enforcement of existing gun safety laws. It documents the overwhelming support for common sense gun safety laws among American voters, including gun owners, and the dangers of guns in the home. Share and discuss the factsheet with your friends, family, and congregations and go see your Members of Congress while they are home on recess and contact them when they return to Washington the week of April 9th. The truth will help set America free.

CDF also has updated our toolkit to support faith communities seeking to end gun violence against children. It includes a menu of suggested activities to inspire congregations to act. Please share the educational materials and incorporate them into teachings through Sunday school lessons, bulletin inserts, prayers and outreach activities. This is the time for all of us – children, parents, grandparents, educators, advocates, religious communities, and others determined to protect children, not guns – to build on and continue the activism sparked by the March For Our Lives.

The March’s messages come in a timely holy season. Passover marked the beginning of the Exodus – a community on the move seeking freedom from oppression, safety, and lives of promise for their children and families. On the Eve of his death, Maundy Thursday, Jesus told his followers who were squabbling about who was the greatest: “The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-27) During this holy week, I end with a prayer:

O God, forgive and help us transform our rich and powerful nation where toddlers and school children die from guns sold quite legally.

O God, forgive and help us transform our rich and powerful nation which protects guns but not children.

O God, help us never to confuse what is quite legal with what is just and right in Your sight.

Help us to stand up and speak up together, pray together and act together for as long as it takes to make America safe – to make us safe in our schools, churches, movie theaters, concerts, community centers and other places where we gather – and stop the war against our children.

Help us to make sure all our children can live the lives You want for them.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org

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