To the Editor,
I was the featured speaker at the New Trier Democrats’ event on gun violence last Sunday. Word had gone out from the Illinois State Rifle Association warning that this would be a “recruitment andorganizational rally” and “These are the people leading the charge to raid your gun safe and confiscateand destroy your guns. … These are the people who don't care if you or your family members are raped,robbed and murdered by violent criminals. They only care about one thing - disarming you.” Althoughnot at all true, it was with this incitement that gun advocates came from all over the state to our littleevent, loaded for bear, as it were.
From the moment they hijacked the meeting’s agenda by turning the Pledge of Allegiance into self-serving posturing, we knew this crowd was not there to listen. Kudos to Judy Mandel of the New TrierDems for doing her very best to ride herd on this unruly group that was fully prepared to “[challenge]those who would tear down our Bill of Rights.” These downstaters who arrived early with a disruptiveagenda were clearly at the wrong meeting.
Four experts in gun violence prevention were asked to prepare a basic educational program about thegun industry and the violence that inevitably accompanies an over-abundance of guns coupled with easyaccess. The event was not for those who would take any criticism of the gun industry’s corporatebehavior as a personal affront. It was not for anyone who was looking to bait or argue with thespeakers. And it was not structured for audience members to present personal opinions outside of thequestion and answer period.
I’m sure many of these folks are very nice people when they don’t have “gun fever.” I spoke withseveral afterwards whose sympathy for our personal losses was quite sincere. I found that these quiet,thoughtful gun owners and I actually have a lot in common. We both want to keep guns out of thehands of criminals in the first place and are willing to consider each other’s concerns in the process. Ijust wish they would stand up to the bullies in their midst and call for the meaningful reforms wealready agree on so that victims don’t have to do all the work.
In the fifteen years since my son’s murder, I have looked deeply into the gun issue and have observedthat people with something tangible to lose will often fight more fiercely than those with somethingintangible to gain. But the Constitution belongs to all of us, not just the most strident or the most wellfunded. The Second Amendment belongs to those on both sides of the gun. Other countries havefigured out how to effectively deal with horrific gun violence by interdicting criminal access to firearmsand life goes on without tyranny, enslavement, and the collapse of civilization. We can, too