A cry. A shout. A primal scream from the depths of my soul. This is how I want to react every time I hear about yet another shooting.
From Tucson to Las Vegas, there is a routine that happens after a mass shooting. First the obligatory tweets and statements from politicians calling for a moment of silence filled with thoughts and prayers. Then admonishment for people to not politicize the moment. The National Rifle Association goes dark for a few days, and the news cycle passes and we move on.
For those of us affected by gun violence, simply moving on isn’t possible. That is because gun violence has become an accepted part of American life. The U.S. has a gun homicide rate 25 times higher than other developed countries. More than 90 Americans die each and every single day because of gun violence. This is a crisis, and one of our own making.
In these moments of anger and pain I look to the past for lessons. Our leaders are failing us. But they’ve done this before. By failing to talk about the crisis of gun violence our leaders perpetuate death. Akin to the AIDS crisis of the '80s, when Reagan largely avoided saying "AIDS" or "HIV," we lost a generation to a preventable and treatable scourge.
Thirty years later, we see the same unwillingness to speak from our leaders. Yet unlike in the '80s, when we were up against a virus, we are now up against something tangible: an industry that profits from death, the Washington gun lobby, and the politicians they elect.
Silence solves nothing. It is not a plan, it is not policy, but above all, it is not a solution; like the ACT UP activists said at the height of the AIDS crisis, “Silence = Death.” I have a poster in my office with that saying to remind me daily as an elected leader that we can not stay quiet.
Instead of bowing to the special interests wanting to profit from guns for everyone, we need to fight back with common-sense reforms, like ensuring we have background checks for all gun sales, not weakening state laws by granting reciprocity, and not letting weapons of war loose on our streets.
The time for silence is past. We need to name the problem, and if that doesn’t work, shame our leaders into acting. It is unacceptable to do nothing. It is not too early to talk about how to deal with gun violence for thousands of Americans — sadly, it is too late.
In the words of Larry Kramer, “Until we get our acts together, all of us, we are as good as dead.”
The next time we are asked for our silence, our response should be anything but.
DANIEL HERNANDEZ is an Arizona state representative. Follow him on Twitter @djblp.