Monday, December 31, 2012

Heartbreaking and A Call to Action

On December 14th, America woke up from our sleep.  20 first graders and 6 adults were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

On April 20th, 1999, we woke up briefly after Columbine, but then we went back to sleep. I had hoped that Columbine was a line in the sand that would stop us in our tracks, but we kept going. We've had more than 100 shootings since. Note: The statistics vary. For fatal mass school shootings with mulitple fatalities, it's between 60 and 70, since Columbine. For school shootings with either one fatality or just injuries, or suicides--it's over 100. One study said around 300). Either way, it's more than any other country in the world, and it's shameful.

Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, just 100 miles from where I live in New York City. Right before Christmas. I feel so sad and angry. Will Obama finally do something, now that a more serious national dialogue has begun? We could forget quickly when teenagers were slaughtered, but now there is heartbreak and outrage because these victims were 6 and 7 years old. Babies. Obama waited four years to take any action. Now that he's been re-elected, and he has nothing to lose, he says ready to do something. Maybe.

Yesterday, he went on "Meet The Press" and said that he can't do it alone. The American people must demand stricter gun laws from their members of Congress or nothing will change. Obama makes an important point.

What are we willing to do?

What am I willing to do?

I became involved with gun violence prevention, particularly school massacre prevention, after Columbine. Columbine was my wake up call. It was not the first school shooting in America, but at the time it was the largest death count. So it got a lot of media attention. People stopped for a minute, paused from their daily concerns and challenges, and thought about those 12 students and a teacher who were shot and killed by their classmates, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. President Clinton went to Littleton, Colorado to meet with the victims' families and the survivors. There was talk of stricter gun control laws. Tom Mauser, whose son, Daniel, was murdered at Columbine, took action in Colorado. He worked to close the gun show loophole that allowed the Klebold and Harris to buy their guns without going through a background check. Tom was successful in lobbying to pass Amendment 22 in the Colorado State Legislature in 2000, also known as The Colorado Background Checks at Gun Shows Act. Here are 2 excellent articles about Tom Mauser.

Tom was one of 60 people I interviewed in Littleton, Colorado in the year following the massacre at Columbine. We have stayed in touch since then. He came to see a performance of A LINE IN THE SAND in Boulder, Colorado in 2009. I consider him a friend and an inspiration to everyone who has lost a loved one to gun violence.

I wrote the play as a response to Columbine, which I hoped would help high school students, parents, educators, and anyone else wanting to prevent future massacres to create a dialogue around the many issues raised by Columbine: easy access to guns, bullying, cliques, parenting, violence in the media, etc. 

Performing the play in high schools has been incredibly rewarding for me. I have witnessed thoughtful and provocative discussions from students and educators. The longer I do this work, the more I can sense a greater awareness of these issues in the schools and a greater effort by some school administrators to do something positive for change. That is progress. And progress matters. Prevention would be better, but progress is a start.

Aside from my work in the schools, I have been involved in the New York City gun control activist community since Columbine. I have met so many amazing, profoundly strong people, many of them mothers who lost children to gun violence. They have turned unbearable pain into action. I participated in the Million Mom's March in 2000, organized by the wonderful, Donna Dees Thomases. I have attended rallies, lie-ins, press conferences, fund raisers, etc. I never cease to be inspired by these incredible people to do whatever I can to keep on fighting for change.

The fight must continue. It is more important than ever. I hope, as many people in the media have suggested, that this is a tipping point for America. Can we really stand by and do nothing while children are senselessly slaughtered?

Even if we stopped selling guns tomorrow, Americans would still own more than 300 million of them. The NRA believes having more guns is the solution. At his press conference last week, Wayne La Pierre said the best way to prevent further school massacres is to put armed guards in every school in this country.

This is what we are up against.

I have signed petitions demanding stricter gun laws. I have written to my Congressmen and women. Obama needs our help. If we support him, we can reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban, we can eliminate high capacity ammunition clips, and we can insist on background checks for all gun sales. 

We are better than this.


Charlotte Bacon, 6 
Daniel Barden, 7
Rachel Davino, 29
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Madeleine F. Hsu, 6 
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6 
Chase Kowalski, 7  
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli , 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6 
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6 
Jessica Rekos, 6 
Avielle Richman, 6
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27
Benjamin Wheeler, 6 
Allison N. Wyatt, 6

Noah Pozner