As y'all probably know guns are not my favorite invention. They wreak havoc on too many communities in this country, splintering families via death and incarceration, increasing rates of suicide and domestic violence, and holding the NOT illustrious award as second leading cause of death and injury for American children.
And while the NRA used to be a reasonable organization in support of gun safety, education, and responsibility, it has, since the late 70s, hitched its wagon firmly to the Right-leaning political sphere. While it has continued to budget for education and safety training, the NRA now has an annual budge of "some quarter of a billion dollars, and between 2000 and 2010 it spent fifteen times as much on campaign contributions as gun-control advocates did," according to this October, 2015, New Yorker article. NRA money spent on lobbying peaked in 2015, at nearly $3.7 million, and last year, the organization spent nearly ten times that, $36.3 million, on efforts to help elect Donald Trump. As evidenced by many such behaviors, not least the grotesque video, The Violence of Lies, the NRA recently released, it is an organization that spreads fear and promotes discord, and it makes me exceedingly uncomfortable.
I have, since we moved into Maryland, been increasingly glad to have done so. We have excellent senators, Van Hollen and Cardin, my representative, Jamie Raskin, is terrific, and as I learned last night at a fundraiser for Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, our Attorney General, Brian Frosh, is too. He has worked to make Maryland a progressive, safer, environmentally sound state and a national leader in addressing and attempting to remedy the public health crisis of gun violence.
AG Frosh spoke about his (largely successful) efforts in leading the fight for the Firearm Safety Act, increasing protections for victims of domestic violence (nationally, many of these assaults involve firearms); and getting assault weapons and other dangerous firearms off of our streets. He is a vocal opponent of the NRA's attempts to weaken or eradicate reasonable gun safety measures like background checks, and I appreciated so much his educated, thoughtful positions and dedication to Maryland and, by extension, the US.
It was a perfect segue to the #NRA2DOJ protest and march I participated in this morning.
Organized by the Women's March leaders, today's event was a direct response to both the horrific lack of justice meted out in the Philando Castile trial (the officer who murdered Castile was acquitted; the NRA took nearly a year to make any public mention of Castile's shooting and death) and also the NRA video I mentioned earlier. Additionally, the Newtown and Pulse nightclub massacres, the deaths of so many black Americans at the hands of police, the gun violence crushing many American cities, and the role of firearms in domestic violence and child death and injury moved many to get out and make our voices heard.
We arrived at the NRA's Virginia headquarters just before 9am. The DC area has been enflamed in a record heat wave this week, and by 10am, temperatures were near 100 with off-the-charts humidity to boot. After a vigorous rally, we all planned to march the 18 miles to the Department of Justice downtown.
There was a moving tribute to the children killed at Sandy Hook and a number of inspiring speakers, well-known and not, rallied us. You should all listen to and follow Tamika Mallory, by the way. She is amazing!
Periodically, some NRA supporters strode around, guns and ammo strapped to their thighs and chests, their signs held high. They were all male and all white. Their signs read:
Free Speech BY ANY MEANS Necessary
The Second Amendment Protects the First
Free Speech Is Under Attack
Patriot Lives Matter
It seems to me that if you're walking around carrying such signs and wearing guns and ammo, you're free speech isn't being thwarted or denied in any way. What does having or not having a gun have to do with patriotism? Not a thing.
I didn't meet one person today who wanted to take all guns away. Not one. Everyone respected the Second Amendment although there was definite discussion on what the Amendment really says and supports (um, not assault weapons).
What we want is regulation. Background checks. Insurance. Education. Training. Safety.
We want perpetrators of domestic violence to NOT be allowed guns. We want mentally ill citizens to be vetted thoroughly before being given firearms. We see no need for enormous magazines and widespread ownership of assault weapons. We want NRA board members to stop saying things like, "If a man can't rape his wife, then who can he rape?"
We do not want guns in our kindergartens or on our college campuses, in our churches or in bars. We do not want our communities militarized. And we are tired of seeing hate militarized in the ways it too often is (see Dylann Roof's massacre of blacks at the Emanual AME Church in Charleston, see Omar Mateen's massacre of LGBTQ folks at Pulse Nightclub, etc)
This isn't a zero sum game. And a huge majority of Americans do want stricter gun regulation. Some can have guns and others can feel safe; both can exist simultaneously. But not in the current situation.
The march began around 11:45. The heat index had pushed the temp above 100, and the migraine I've had since Tuesday remained lodged in my skull. My friend and I started off but ultimately decided to head home. 18 miles is a long trek, and I have five guests arriving tomorrow morning. I wish I'd been able to march the whole way. Footage from the arrival at the DOJ is very moving. Here's a summary article with some videos and stills.
But I feel like I'm doing my part in the ways I can: financially, with my voice, with my time, with my feet. Hopefully you are doing your parts too, about the issues you care and are concerned about.