Action After Las Vegas: How to Turn Your Grief Into Purpose
10.03.17

For as gut-wrenching as this week has been in the wake of Sunday’s deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, it’s felt terrifyingly familiar. The same stomach drops, the same tears, the same frustrating fights. Even from the sidelines it feels like a living nightmare, and the closer you get to the nexus, the more horrific things become. I understand the self-preserving urge to close eyes, step away, drown out the noise. I understand wanting to back away from the “face-melting rage,” the circular arguing, the unavoidable grief and the discomfort bred from wanting to move on but not being able to. If you feel this way, you aren’t alone. I feel it, too. But as the number of gun deaths in this country grows, it’s impossible to not weigh the cost of inaction against that of history repeating itself.

“You’ve become inoculated,” Congressman Steve Israel wrote in his New York Times oped this morning. “You’ll read this essay and others like it, and turn the page or click another link. You’ll watch or listen to the news and shake your head, then flip to another channel or another app. This horrific event will recede into our collective memory. That’s what the gun lobbyists are counting on. They want you to forget.”

Many conservative media outlets are saying it’s insensitive to use the Vegas shooting as an opportunity to discuss gun control, but the lack of regulation around firearms in this country and the resulting abuse of them are inextricably linked. Failing to draw that connection, explore it and pick it apart when it feels most urgent is a missed opportunity. History bends around inflection points that demand it change course.

“If we ever want to live in a better world,” wrote Paul Blest for The Outline, “it is crucial to immediately highlight why these disasters are political in order to make sure those who die in mass shootings don’t do so in vain.”

Every response plays an important role in a disaster’s aftermath: that of the President, of congress, of the media, of public figures, of private civilians. Each one is a ripple that makes a wave. Take for instance, the way we report on these events: Do we name the shooter Stephan Paddock a “lone wolf,” thereby refusing to call this a pattern? Do we humanize him by reporting on “what he enjoyed,” or do we call him a terrorist, thereby pointing out the racist hypocrisy of our regulatory inaction? Do we call this “senseless murder,” thereby absolving ourselves from the ominous work of unpacking such an act of violence?

It all matters. When we indulge our feelings of helplessness, when we give too much credit to “the powers that be,” we miss an opportunity to have a say. As individuals, we can watch the fire burn, or we can get angry, call our reps, donate money, get educated, join a movement, find some way, any way, to help. I know these things can feel small — dropping some money in a bucket, signing up for a mailing list, marching down a street, reading up on statistics and policy, pointing out our hypocrisy…but “thoughts and prayers” do far less. Remember these are the little things that bring about big change, and the louder we get, the more congress will have to listen. The harder we fight, the more difficult it will become for representatives to take money from, aid and abet gun lobbyists, and the more difficult it will become to ignore the facts.

I know the cyclical horror of all this makes it feel like nothing changes, but it does. In the wake of 2016’s shooting in Orlando, public push-back made a crack: “Several other Republican senators showed some willingness to accept new restrictions on gun purchases if they could be structured in an acceptable way,” reported the New York Times. “A bipartisan companion measure also was introduced in the House. These are incremental steps, but in the gridlocked world of gun control politics, they count for something.”

It’s okay if you’re new to this; so many of us are. Future generations are depending on us to find a way, endure and do what we can whenever we can. Participation goes a long way, and progress demands it. Below are some ways you can do that today.

Hold your reps accountable

Text “NO MORE” to 30644 and the Human Rights Campaign will connect you directly to your lawmakers office so you can ask what they’re doing to end gun violence.

Check this list to see which of your reps have accepted campaign contributions from the NRA.

Fill out this form on Everytown’s website, an organization dedicated to finding solutions to end gun violence, and they’ll tell you who your reps are and what to say to them.

Here is a detailed explainer from Bustle on how to frame these calls.

Volunteer

Text “ACT” to 64433 and Everytown will send you periodic updates on what you can do locally to end gun violence.
Join a local chapter of the Brady Campaign.
Sign up for the Newton Action newsletter to learn about events near you.

Donate and sign petitions

GoFundMe for victims of the Las Vegas shooting
Everytown for Gun Safety
The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence
Americans for Responsible Solutions
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
States United to Prevent Gun Violence
Newton Action Alliance

Educate yourself

Read “Gun Violence in America, Explained in 17 Maps and Charts” from Vox
Read “Preventing Mass Shootings Like the Vegas Strip Attack” from the Times
Explore this Gun Law Navigator Tool from Everytown, to understand gaps in policy and trends over time

Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images.

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  • Aydan

    I used to work with a group that worked directly with Everytown for Gun Safety. These are hardworking people working towards what’s right. Support the cause. We cannot let this happen again.

  • starryhye

    Thank you for all of these resources. I’m so @&^%$# sick of this.

  • Kay

    Thank you for this

  • Alison

    Here’s the message I got from my congressional representative today. I will keep calling about important issues (healthcare, DACA, travel ban, gun control), but I’m not sure that anything I do will matter to him. He has a “safe seat” in Congress.

    ***

    Thank you for contacting my office regarding the Second Amendment. Your views are important to me, and I appreciate you taking the time to express them. I take pride in the opportunity to serve you and all the constituents of Virginia’s Fifth District. I understand the importance of my role representing you and am thankful for this position.

    I remain committed to protecting the Second Amendment right of all eligible American citizens. I will not waver in that regard, and have even introduced legislation to help guarantee this right for all law-abiding Americans. I also remain committed to keeping guns out of the hands of those unable to handle them responsibly. Currently, the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia both require that purchasers of firearms complete and pass separate background checks to legally purchase a firearm. This double check system allows for state and federal government agencies to verify that the person purchasing a firearm is legally allowed to do so. Gun safety education is also critical to ensuring that firearms are used in responsible ways.

    However, outlawing guns only prohibits law abiding citizens from owning them. The adage, “if guns were outlawed only outlaws would have guns” speaks to that fact. Overregulation creates black markets, and black markets necessarily create more violence. Know that I will keep your thoughts and the safety of the American people in mind as I consider legislation related to this topic.

    Feel free to connect with my office online to receive updates on legislation congress is working on and current news. You can sign up for my e-newsletter at tomgarrett.house.gov. Again, I appreciate you sharing your concerns with me. Please let me know if I can be of service to you in the future.

    Sincerely,
    Thomas A. Garrett, Jr.
    Member of Congress

    • Jam Jam

      Thanks for sharing this. I live in liberal areas where my reps’ emails are borderline radical. It’s good (/chilling) to see this other side. That whole third paragraph…it’s all so deluded.

    • Liz

      Yes, agreed with Jam Jam: thank you for sharing this! I live in NYC and our city and state governments are doing a great job with this, which I think sometimes makes it hard to understand what other people are experiencing. It is INFURIATING to think that an “old adage” is your Congressperson’s excuse for being an accessory to mass murders. Keep up the good fight; standing together with you!

    • Basil

      Oh FFS – do these people never look at how regulations works in other countries? I live in the U.K., and after the Dunblane massacre, gun ownership became severely restricted. And you know what? Very few people have guns. There are no mass shootings.

      I can’t believe how dumb these people are

  • Senka

    Certain Americans love for their guns is bigger than their love for life. Even their own lives. It’s insane. Why do they need guns? Who are they protecting themselves from? Don’t you guys have huge military and police (although ot seems pretty racist one, looking from the outside), tp do that, to protect. The whole paranoia of needing a gun, makes them ineligible to have one. Sorry, but I don’t get it.

  • Bo

    Oh god. That piece by Steve Israel is the most frustrating thing to read – so much effort to make the tiniest adjustments in the direction of regulation, all rebuffed at some point. . In March 1996, John Howard was elected Prime Minister of Australia. Barely a month later, a single man went on a shooting spree in the town on Port Arthur in Tasmania, resulting in a death toll of well over 30. Howard, who it should be noted is a staunch political conservative, proposed a federal takeover of gun laws, developing a National Firearms Agreement, which encompassed firearms registration, buyback programs, and amnesties for civilians to turn in firearms. It took one awful day in April 1996 to motivate one leader to make a judgement call, defy a good number of his own party members, and commit to gun control.
    These days, Howard is retired and I have never heard a single Australian criticise his approach to firearms regulation (my dad legit loved it, the government bought 5 rifles off him that he didn’t even use!). Now, I’m Australian, not American, so I haven’t grown up in a culture where firearms are my constitutional right, but still I don’t know what’s holding American lawmakers back. How worse do these tragedies have to get before they decide to do something? What level of horror are they waiting for before they finally get off the couch? This is a great article because it shows people how to keep the heat up. Keep pursuing this, everyone. Don’t let them rest for a moment.

    • HB

      Yes, completely agree. I too am Australian, and have never heard a word against John Howard and the gun laws he bought in. (In fact he is the 2nd longest serving prime minister ever.) I should add also, we have had zero major shootings since 1996.

  • Jeanie

    I was giving reoccurring donations to everytown awhile ago. Starting that up again. It’s sick how people don’t take responsibility.