Gun Violence in America: Enough is Enough

by Annie Leonard

October 9, 2015

We cannot have the green and peaceful future we all hope for without confronting gun violence head on.

Peace Now

© Greenpeace / Roger Grace

As a parent, I have a lot of jobs. I need to make sure my daughter has healthy food, good manners and a climate that will sustain her and future generations. Some of these jobs are easy, and some require a lifetime of work. But there’s a new job that I resent having to do, that no parent should have to do. Every morning when I send my daughter off to school, I have to worry about her being shot. While that may sound dramatic, the epidemic of gun violence in this country means that we no longer have the luxury of feeling like our children are safe in their schools.

Yesterday I received an urgent alert on my cell phone from my daughter’s school warning me of a lockdown on campus because of a student reported carrying a weapon. Everything turned out fine and the lockdown was lifted before I had heard the message, so I didn’t have that rush of absolute terror that too many parents, brothers and sisters have experienced in similar moments.

Just today, school shootings have left students dead at both Northern Arizona University and Texas Southern University. This follows last week’s tragic shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, which killed nine people. Closer to my home, young artist Antonio Ramos was shot dead while painting a public healing mural designed by local schoolchildren in neighboring Oakland.

Many of the victims of this violence have parents who have had to feel the terror and indescribable loss of losing their child. Every parent I know has some little part of their brain on standby for that dreaded phone call, but it doesn’t have to be this way. There are some problems that are really hard — maybe even impossible — to solve, but this is not one of them. The United States is the only industrialized country with routine mass shootings and out of control rates of accidental handgun deaths, often involving children.

My choice to work for Greenpeace isn’t just because I care about keeping our planet “green.” It’s equally about the second part of our name: peace. We can’t have a truly sustainable society without it being safe and peaceful. That’s why Greenpeace opposes wars, but also why we take a stand against the everyday gun violence in this country.

At Greenpeace, our commitment to peace inspires us to take a more creative approach to resolving our differences with those we don’t agree with. Art, humor, dressing up in costumes, peaceful sit-ins and vigils — all of these are ways to share what we feel needs to be said, without ever taking up arms.

Just like our climate crisis, there is no magical solution to gun violence. We need better healthcare, stronger gun laws and a real plan to tackle the worsening economic inequality that destabilizes our communities. We must face up to the tragic reality that children in this country lose their lives every day to gun violence, and not always in the well-publicized mass shootings that we read about. This is a problem that plagues our cities and our rural communities. Just like the clean energy revolution, we can look at other countries around the world and see that there are sensible steps we can take to tackle these challenges.

As a mother, I am grateful for the work being done by groups like Moms Demand Action, taking a non-partisan approach to campaigning for a country where all children and families are safe from gun violence. This urgent issue demands the same principles we apply to protecting our environment — creativity, dedication and passion aimed at peacefully confronting an unacceptable status quo. We’re used to seeing politicians throw up their hands and say that they can’t do anything to fix this problem. We’ve never accepted that answer when it comes to environmental problems, and we won’t accept it when it comes to the gun violence plaguing our schools, churches, movie theaters and neighborhoods.

I hope you will join me in recognizing that we cannot have the green and peaceful future we all hope for without confronting gun violence head on.

Annie Leonard

By Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. Leonard began her career at Greenpeace in 1988 and has returned to help the organization inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action to create a more sustainable future together. She is based in San Francisco.

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