After another tragic, commonplace massacre of school children in America last week, the monotonous debate on what needs to be done began again. Nearly a quarter century after Columbine, we have yet to implement changes to protect our most vulnerable.
The simple truth is that nothing will happen until gun control advocates become single-issue voters like their gun rights opposition.
Outrage and recriminations bloomed in media accounts and social media posts in the immediate aftermath of two teachers and 19 students being gunned down inside yet another school, this time in Texas. Pain and horror and sadness and anger filled hearts across the country.
And like all emotions, they will fade far sooner than we could expect, and most will move on to other issues. And that is a part of the problem. Too many who demand action move on too fast without long-term, dedicated advocacy.
It is a natural cycle of events. It is a complex world with an endless series of events to grip our attention.
Ukraine. Another mass shooting. Inflation. The next school shooting. Coronavirus. More people gunned down. Abortion.
That is why we do not see meaningful reform. Too many engaged citizens too often have too short an attention span. Other important issues pull their attention away too quickly for any meaningful change to occur.
It is so predictable that it has become a part of the gun rights response. That is exactly why they believe in offering “thoughts and prayers” after each tragedy and doing nothing more — they do not need to. They understand that the torrent of voices calling for gun control will calm to a trickle within a week or two as social media activists opining from behind a desk move on to the next issue de jour.
In contrast, gun rights activists will be gathering at gun shows and rallies and conventions. The NRA convention hosted in Houston — the same state where an 11-year-old soaked herself in her friend’s blood to hide from a gunman — will still draw thousands of activists and high-profile speakers. Attendees will disperse across the country energized to not just protect the status quo but increase access to guns.
That can only be combated by consistent, ceaseless advocacy and single-minded dedication. Not just from the groups like Everytown for Gun Safety — where founder Michael Bloomberg has currently pledged to triple every donation through May 31st — but from every last person who has been outraged by school shootings like those in Uvalde.
What does that look like?
It starts with electing more gun control champions. People like state Rep. Tom Sullivan. He made reforming gun laws his life’s work after a mass murderer killed his son in the Aurora theater shooting. While not every candidate will have the same personal history, Democrats in safe districts can choose candidates who will be as singularly focused.
It also includes removing people like U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert. She owes her entire political career to a confrontation with Beto O’Rourke while she wore a hand-cannon strapped to her thigh. If people in her district are serious about stopping school shootings, they need to remove her from office. Someone like state Sen. Don Coram may be more open to compromise and would certainly be a less high-profile cheerleader for the gun lobby.
It probably wouldn’t hurt if dedicated groups started showing up to protest outside businesses that glorify guns. Can you imagine a group protesting outside Boebert’s restaurant, Shooters Grill, holding posters of dead children for patrons to confront?
Advocates need to hold their own conventions and bring their own activists together. They must organize and knock on doors and make phone calls for candidates. They need to demand accountability, not in the day or two following every mass shooting, but every day, every month, every year between.
Our nation is faced with a choice. What do we treasure most: our guns or our children?
For those who choose the latter, it is time to commit.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq