Do I need to join an organization?
Do I have to engage those social-media platforms that further drain what little time I have to commit to this cause?
And with my limited time, how can I locate the most reliable websites with the most reliable information?
And most importantly, what is the most efficient—meaning, the least time-consuming, yet effective—way to have an impact on this problem?
I will try to answer those questions for you.
But first of all, let me say that I do understand your questions. I work a full-time job at an American university where I teach, write, and direct a large program. With my wife, I am also raising a family.
I figured I didn’t have time for GVP activism either.
Until I did. Until our state legislators tried to put guns on our public college and university campuses.
Until I felt what many Americans have felt about our country’s dysfunctional relationship with firearms—that it has to be made healthy again because too many innocent men, women, and most tragically, children are being sacrificed to it. My particular focus has been guns-on-campus, but I now support a broad range of gun-violence causes.
Over the past three years, as I have undertaken this work, I have met exceptional folks who have devoted their lives to reducing gun-violence in this country, and if you get involved, you will meet them too because they are very generous with their time.
These are the brave souls who are in the trenches and running the GVP organizations; the first-responders to every piece of legislation that furthers the gun-lobbyist’s agendas; the watchdogs to every ploy by the NRA to increase the presence of firearms in American life, and the fact-checkers for all of the misinformation disseminated by the radical gun-fringe in this country.
They do the heavy-lifting, and they do it every day. But they need your help.
So I have put together a primer on how the rest of us can pitch in and sleep better at night, knowing that we have made a contribution, and can still survive our busy days, taking care of our families and our loved ones.
And even ourselves, if we think about it!
What follows then is the road-map that I wish I had several years ago when I began.
Three words are useful in organizing this road-map: LEARN, JOIN, ACT.
If you approach each one of these stages in moderation, you'll make real and long-lasting contributions to eradicating this national embarrassment.
First, spend some time learning the terminology and the specific challenges that you might face as you wade into these waters. Like any socio-political movement, GVP has its own vocabulary and acronyms, and you'll need to know the fundamentals.
But the problem is pretty straightforward: people are dying needlessly because America has let the gun lobbyists and manufacturers set the policies that will most line their pockets. And our politicians, in the face of this money, feel that they are powerless to resist this carnage. The fundamental concept and wedge-issue is gun-control, and the best introduction to this topic comes from the The New York Times. Read this piece carefully, and you will have a grasp of the basics:
As I read more and more over the past few years, I kept a list of the pieces that I found most helpful, and I have posted them on my blog, Gunsense. You will be interested in some topics, in others, not as much. That's as it should be. At this stage, you're discovering what part of this movement most attracts you, and reading through the relevant literature is the best way to locate your major interest. You will find the specific list here:
This is my favorite part of the process because here I get to list the pages and websites run by those dedicated folks I mentioned above. Note: this is a highly selective list, and there are many more organizations and individuals doing vital work. You will find them as you work through this list and broaden your field of reference, and I encourage you to begin building a stockpile of your own trusted sources. I have listed here both websites and Facebook pages. Find a few that you like and join them, like them, get on their mailing lists, drive their numbers up, and you will heighten their profile and deepen your knowledge. I haven't annotated these entries. Suffice it to say that they are all major national organizations, often with state branches tailored to the agendas of your own region.
- The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
- The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
- Women Against Gun Violence
- Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
- Everytown for Gun Safety
- Americans for Responsible Solutions
- The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
- Parents Against Gun Violence
- States United to Prevent Gun Violence
- Violence Policy Center
- No Notoriety
- Mass Shooting Tracker
You will eventually want to do something, right? Perhaps the most effective, traditional, and least time-consuming way to act is so simple that it defies credibility: call your Congressmen and Senators and give them your opinion on the issue. Congressional staffers who work the phones tally the calls (pro and con) and report the results to their legislators. The gun-lobbyists have been very successful in this simplest of all political actions, and it has had a real effect on their success. We can do the same thing. Pick up the phone and call. Many of the organizations that I listed will keep you informed of what you need to consider, when to call, and what to say. It's an action that is extremely influential and very efficient. Here are a few websites that will help you locate your representatives quickly:
Also you'll find a helpful round-up of thirty decisive actions that you can do immediately to help in this cause:
And remember: as soon as you begin visiting these sites, you will find plenty of other ways to become involved and help push this cause forward. You have lots of support, however you wish to become involved.
Of course, social media plays a large role in the GVP movement, and you'll need a Facebook page to access some of the sources listed above and a Twitter account, if you choose to help out in Twitter campaigns, or even if you want to use Twitter simply to follow GVP news in general. But that's another posting.
The conventional wisdom with gun-violence prevention always encourages local and state action first, often inspired and fueled by the national organizations. I live and work in Arkansas, and gun-violence prevention in this state, while alive and well, does not currently have a great deal of resources, aside from the energy and devotion of its proponents, which are substantial and focused.
Those of us who are active in this area have good working relationships with the state legislators who support our goals, and we have created a social-media presence as well. If you live in Arkansas, you can start here:
- Central Arkansas Brady Campaign Chapter
- Moms Demand Action AR — the FB page
- Gunsense — my own FB page, dedicated to state and national GVP
- Arkansans Against Guns on Campus — a FB page administered by one of my colleagues
- Gunsense — my blog, which you're currently visiting, and the only one devoted to GVP in the state (that I can find).
Nothing that we do is insignificant because anything that we do will raise awareness of this problem among others.
As Mahatma Gandhi, wrote: "The 'fabric of society is not finished . . . It is on the loom, and it is made up of constantly changing relationships."
We can do much now to change our destructive relationship with guns and strengthen the fabric of our society. Thank you for wanting to help out!