Editor's note: Since this post, we have published our first feature story, "Normal from the Outside, in our year-long focus on families and gun violence. See also our latest stories in the series on our family safety page; and consider going to Town Hall Seattle's forum on keeping children safe from gun violence on December 12, 2013.
Sixteen. That is apparently the number we are at for 2013 — still with months to go until the end of the year. Sixteen: The number of school shootings this year in the United States.
The most recent tragedy was just yesterday morning, when a young man apparently killed a teacher and wounded two students at Sparks Middle School in Nevada. The suspect also died — by suicide, some news outlets were reporting Monday.
Our hearts go out to the families and the community affected. Every time another tragedy occurs, we shake our heads and grieve; we clench our fists in anger and try to understand how to make our kids safer in a world that seems constantly, increasingly dangerous. We wave goodbye to our children each morning, the images of horrific headlines and foreboding police tape on a toxic loop in our minds.
The months roll on. Tragedy strikes again.
Sometimes, mass tragedies impact us on such a scale that they do change the conversation; they change our reality. Columbine was like that. So was 9/11. Last year’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting also felt the same way, leaving behind some hope that maybe we could affect policy, funding and politics enough to keep guns out of the hands of those who would harm kids, increase resources and reduce stigma around mental illness treatment, and stop children from using guns on each other — intentionally or accidentally, often because an adult who should have protected them instead made access to a deadly weapon easier.
At ParentMap, we are taking on the issue of guns in 2014, with a mission to explore the intersection of guns, families and violence. We are officially kicking off this year-long focus in December, with content in our print magazine and online.
But today, on a day when yet another school community was seized by gun violence, it seems fitting to lay out our intent:
In 2014, the ParentMap team has chosen to focus on an issue that we feel is both important and currently critical: The intersection of guns, violence and families. We will return to this issue time and again throughout the year, via monthly content installment(s) across one or more ParentMap publishing mediums. As part of this mission, we will examine issues around guns and families from different angles, through stories, events and social-media connection points, and foster an ongoing conversation we hope will bring awareness, resources and change to our community.
ParentMap aims to cultivate a fair and broad discussion about gun violence. We will host guest voices representing a range of opinions, report objectively and, in some cases, take an editorial position on issues, initiatives and action items we feel are central to improving the safety of children and families.
ParentMap supports universal background checks and the passage of Initiative 594 in Washington State, which would apply the currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales. ParentMap also supports a Congressional bill to require background checks for all gun sales in commercial settings, including at gun shows, on the Internet and in classified ads.
Just last week I spoke with Shannon Watts, who founded the young but powerful organization Moms Demand Action the day after the Sandy Hook shootings. The stay-at-home mother of five kids and former public relations executive from Indianapolis was so shaken and angry after Sandy Hook she became determined to unite concerned parents and do something.
What started as a Facebook page quickly grew to a grassroots, nationwide organization that has raised over $1 million, has chapters in every state and has lobbied for safer gun laws and corporate policies.
She wants parents to stop feeling scared and start taking action.
“This Congress is intractable and in many ways hopeless, so we are very eager for midterm elections. We want moms to vote solely on gun control.”
Sometimes it feels like nothing we do will change the hold guns have over us. And we can’t bring back the children and lives that have been senselessly lost.
But I go back to the determination that the people trying to make change exhibit. Despite the busyness of life, despite jobs and carpools and apathy, people are pushing for safer gun laws and safer communities with the same stubbornness as a certain brand of gun-rights activist who thinks it’s OK to turn a community’s private hell into a cruel circus.
We must get involved if we care, and we must stick with it.
“This is a marathon,” Watts told me. “Not a sprint.”
Attend "Gun Violence: Keeping Kids Safe," a Town Hall Seattle event December 12, 7:30 p.m. (More info here soon).
Follow our coverage on the intersection of guns, violence and families through 2014 and join the conversation using the Twitter and Facebook hashtags #gunbelievable and #gunsense.