Four steps toward ending gun violence

Stacey Newman is Missouri state representative of the 87th District, which includes Clayton and parts of Brentwood, Ladue, Richmond Heights and University City.

STACEY NEWMAN

Leviticus 19:16 compels us “do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.”

This past week, millions showed up for the student-organized March for Our Lives rallies in every major city. Missourians in Columbia, Joplin, Kansas City, Lee’s Summit, Springfield, St. Joseph, Warrensburg and St. Louis marched as millions more in solidarity showed up around the globe on six continents.

Grieving Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students in Parkland, Fla.  sparked the idea of a national march after hiding, petrified, in closets for six minutes as their friends were murdered.

They coincidentally had been in government classes on Valentine’s Day, studying about high-power lobby organizations including the NRA when a shooter gunned down 17 of their classmates and teachers.

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The students, born after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, have intimately known gun violence their entire lives — in schools, theaters, nightclubs, places of worship, community centers, workplaces, their streets and their homes. They are incensed by the inaction of adults to keep their generation alive, regardless of ZIP code or community. They have endured regular lockdown drills and armed guards in their schools, which is little defense for assault-style rifle fire.

As a mother who was sparked to action 18 years ago by my first-grade daughter going on national television talking about kids and guns, I feel and hear the students’ outrage. I’m grateful for their voices. After lobbying several years against concealed weapons, I ran for legislative office on a platform of anti-gun violence. Once elected, I was dismayed that only a handful of people in the Capitol were willing to stand up to the gun lobby.

The students are correct in blaming adults for standing idly by as the gun lobby bought and strong-armed elected officials in Congress and state legislatures. As voters, we have for years allowed our Missouri Legislature to be commandeered by a lobby that prioritizes the profits of firearm manufacturers over the lives of people.

On Saturday, kids from all kinds of communities, sick of fearing for their lives, finally screamed loud enough for us to hear.  Our complacency must stop.

Any day now the Missouri House will debate HB1936 sponsored by Rep. Jared Taylor, R-Nixa, which would allow guns in bars, day care centers, places of worship and schools. The House will also advance his HB1937, which would prohibit local communities from regulating the open carry of firearms, as well as HB1865, sponsored by Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, that would allow guns in cars.

Not one of these bills will save lives.

In floor debate, only a handful of Democrats will fight back while many running for re-election in districts perceived to have pro-gun voters will stay silent. Every legislator in the majority Republican Party will vote for these gun bills, along with several Democrats. If the bills reach the governor’s desk by May 18, he will sign them, as promised in his machine gun-style campaign ad.

How do we stop stranglehold of the gun lobby in our state?  By listening to the demands of the kids.

Step 1: Demand that every candidate, from school board to county official to state and federal office, tell you where he or she stands with the gun lobby.

Step 2: Show up to vote in the Aug. 7 primary election when most state legislators are basically elected and, frankly, most voters stay home. Vote only for those who promise to fight against the gun lobby.

Step 3: Show up again to vote in the Nov. 6 general election. Again, vote only for those who will fight against the gun lobby.

Step 4: Demand that those elected advance common sense proposals that the majority of Missourians want: background checks for all gun sales; gun violence restraining orders, also known as “red flag” bills that  allow interventions in potential volatile situations; raising the age to 21 to purchase firearms; restricting guns from those convicted of domestic violence; and banning assault-style rifles.

The “school shooting” generation is finished with adults’ paltry actions.  They are done with cowardly elected officials. They have vowed to take democracy into their own hands as a powerful mass of new voters. They have created a national movement via social media in just five weeks and promise that it’s just the beginning. They have vowed that their friends, shot at school, at home or in the streets, will not have died in vain.

We just witnessed the students’ incredible power to assemble en masse.  I also believe in their power to change the face of government and in their leadership to finally save lives.

We can either continue to bury kids or vow to stop standing silently by.

Missouri Rep. Stacey Newman, a Democrat, represents the 87th District, which includes Clayton and parts of Brentwood, Ladue, Richmond Heights and University City.