Cliff Schecter is a political columnist for The Daily Beast, president of PR firm Libertas LLC and a gun safety activist. He contributed this post for our Take Action section.
Some days it can seem like we should just give up. You’re just processing one senseless mass shooting in Las Vegas when you find out there has been a mass killing in Florida. But there’s no time to think about that because your television is saying that there’s a shooter on the loose in North Hollywood, and there has been another high school shooting in Oregon. It can lead to despair.
But we’ve had many similar battles in this country before. Did anyone foresee an African-American becoming president just 40 years after the raging battles for civil rights in the 1960s? Ten years ago, when gay marriage bans were sweeping the nation, did anyone think we’d be at a point where Oklahoma, Kentucky, Utah and Texas have all been told by judges that marriage equality is here to stay?
The truth is that as much as there’s a sickening amount of gun violence on display today, we’re seeing the end of an era when virtually nobody challenged the blood-drenched greed of the National Rifle Association. That has now changed. Even if Newtown didn’t change our federal laws, it was a turning point.
Here are 5 things you can do right now that will help bring sane gun laws to America sooner than you might think possible.
1) Change Our Culture
The aim of the gun lobby is to make the open and concealed carry of guns the norm everywhere, from pre-schools to airports — it’s entirely ahistorical. So let’s take our culture in the exact opposite direction. Join groups like Moms Demand Action and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence as they tell companies like Target and Visa that guns are not toys, and they should not be allowing them in stores or funding the NRA with affiliate card programs.
Let Target know that if loaded guns are going to be left in the toy aisle for your children to find, you’ll find another place to shop. And if Visa is going to partner with the NRA, perhaps you’ll find another credit card, thank you.
2) Stop Investing in Guns
The Campaign to Unload has done a brilliant job of pressuring large private equity firms, hedge funds and other investors to get out of the business of guns. This has led to over $171 million being pulled out of gun companies in 2013 alone. But you have a role to play in this, too. Contact your 401(K) manager and tell her you do not wish to be invested in any funds that own gun-manufacturer stocks.
Find out where they are holding a rally – outside a large investment firm near you! — and go join them. Let those who profit from the death of our children know that it is not enough to not be affiliated with the NRA – they have to keep their resources clear of gun stocks in the same way that divesting from South Africa once helped end apartheid. This is a hugely important solution to this problem, and it’s as easy as a phone call for you. So what are you waiting for?
3) Make Corporations Get Off the Sidelines
On economic policy, many people rightfully see corporate America as a hindrance and not a help. But on some of the great social issues of our time, the involvement of big business has helped bring about real change. From civil rights to women’s rights to gay rights, when large corporations see that it is in their own interest — because it’s in their customers’ interests — to bring about change, they get involved.
Right now, a group I do some consulting with, The National Gun Victims Action Council, has issued a bold challenge. It involves Hallmark, a company that not only allows guns in its stores, but also once promised the arms lobby that they love guns — they really love them – and rejected an open letter from NGVAC and the Newtown Victims & Clergy for Corporate Responsibility (NVCCR) to change their policy.
So the same groups have challenged us to boycott Hallmark for Father’s Day. If you choose to buy your cards at The National Gun Victims Action Council’s website, instead of at Hallmark, the money you spend will help victims of gun violence. Then ask Hallmark, 90 percent of whose customers support universal background checks, to do what other socially progressive companies have done in the past: Get off the sidelines, and use its lobbyists to advocate for all the fathers and sons who buy its products and want to spend many more Father’s Days at restaurants or parks, not cemeteries.
4) Make Politicians Uncomfortable
Show up at rallies to decry politicians who refuse to vote for the universal background checks that 90 percent of us support. Bird dog them with cellphone cameras and ask them why they’d allow more children and police officers to die. Tweet at them. Leave comments on their Facebook pages. Call their offices in their home districts and in Washington, DC. Hold vigils outside their offices. There are all sorts of peaceful ways to put pressure on politicians.
Let them know you will vote on this issue, no matter what else they do. They will be held accountable for watching a slow motion slaughter of America’s youth if they choose to do nothing. Just as with corporations, there is no neutral here. Either you support sane gun laws or you are part of the problem.
5) Use Your Voice
You are consequential. You have a voice. You have reading clubs, Facebook friends, bridge parties, etc. Make sure everyone knows your feelings on this issue, and arm yourself with the facts for when you inevitably encounter those who have a strange form of separation anxiety if their gun is in another room.
Most importantly, if your kids are headed to play at someone’s house, ask them 1) if they have a gun, and if they do, 2) is it securely locked away with the ammunition separate from the weapon? Too many children die of accidents every month because parents neglect do to this. It may be an uncomfortable conversation, but think of the alternative.
Also, as speech now equals money (actually it doesn’t, but let’s play along with this inane Supreme Court decision for a second), if you have the funds, you could give money to candidates promising to support reasonable restrictions, and groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety and Americans for Responsible Solutions (Gabby Giffords’ group) so they can take on those who have blocked commonsense solutions to gun violence and help get us a Congress (and state legislatures) that will act in the interests of the public rather than the gun lobby.