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Column: In the wake of Florida shooting, a promise to act in the name of preventing gun violence

Ed. – The following is adapted from remarks delivered last month at Town Center during a vigil organized by local members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The author, a resident of Virginia Beach, delivered similar remarks recently to the Virginia Beach School Board. She is the legislative lead for the Hampton Roads chapter of Moms Demand Action. This has been edited for length and style.

BY SIBEL GALINDEZ

TOWN CENTER — I extend more than my thoughts and prayers to all the families changed forever by the loss of their loved ones and to all those families who must now comfort and dare to erase the trauma their loved ones survived to remember. I pledge my action. 

I speak as a member and volunteer from a group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the largest gun violence prevention advocacy group in the nation, in conjunction with Everytown for Gun Safety and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Ours is a non-partisan, grassroots organization comprised of gun owners and non-gun owners created very much in the same vein as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also know as MADD. 

MADD was started by parents who had to endure their children being killed by automobiles used irresponsibly by people under the influence of alcohol. The laws were significantly more lax before those parents, who felt the devastating heartache of the death of a child, brought awareness about the issue to their communities and petitioned and lobbied their elected officials with evidence-based information. They calmly and steadily persevered in the face of the restaurant and alcohol lobby’s well-funded efforts to stop any such legislation. 

It took years and too many deaths for parents and others who joined them to change what was considered appropriate and socially acceptable behavior – as well as legal behavior. President Reagan in 1982 started the ball rolling federally with the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving and invited MADD to participate. Then he clearly took a stand in the face of top advisors who reminded him of his dedication to states’ rights by signing the National Minimum Age Act of 1984, standardizing the drinking age to 21 and denying highway funds to states that refused. 

Many more laws have been passed in these last 37 years since MADD’s inception because of those parents’ unrelenting perseverance. Motor vehicle deaths due to drunk driving have been cut in half, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

We still all drive cars, and we still all have the right to drink alcohol when we are of age, but cultural and legal change means responsible adults now hand over their keys when they decide to imbibe. Lives have been saved. How we view this dangerous combination of alcohol and driving was not part of our culture a generation ago.

I share the story of these parents and then the students who developed Students Against Drunk Driving so that you can see the finish line at the end of the path Moms Demand Action has in its sites when it comes to guns.  

I am unwilling to sacrifice anymore of our children. I pledge to repeatedly watch the brave, impassioned plea by Emma Gonzales, the young woman from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived the mass shooting in Florida. Her plea for all of us, the adults, the parents, is to step up to the plate and say “BS” right along side her.

Change is in our grasp. This path of guns anywhere, anytime, no questions asked is something the National Rifle Association has been working on since 1977, when radicals took over the group’s annual meeting and long-term agenda. We have 41 years of work to catch up on.  The NRA has been slow and steady, chipping away at our gun laws for 41 years.  

My goal is to empower you to prepare for a marathon, not a sprint. I urge you to register voters, canvass and staff phone banks. Throw out elected officials who would sacrifice our children. 

This will take time and work. Those Sunday afternoons, months from now, when the news cycle about Parkland has faded, when Emma Gonzalez’s cry for action is a faint whisper in the back of your mind, I ask you to renew your resolve. 

Come fall, I ask you to help get out the vote and go door to door to elect gun sense champions. When important legislation is going to the Senate or House floor, I need you to take five minutes to call our elected officials to make sure they vote for common sense gun reform. 

Here are a few things you can do now:

Sign up to be part of Moms Demand Action, and you will join a path of real and accessible change.

Understand what concealed carry reciprocity is and how dangerous it is. It would strip our state of Virginia of its right to decide for itself who can carry a hidden loaded weapon in our public. 

Urge our Virginia Beach schools superintendent and school board to hear our BeSmart for Kids program, a nonpolitical conversation meant for adults about kids, guns and safety, and allow us to share it with the parent community in our schools.

Gun violence is in our schools. That is where the conversation around gun safety belongs. We cannot continue to ask our children to do lockdown drills without asking the adults in our community to do their part and lock up their guns.  

We must answer our children’s plea to be the adults we need to be.


Learn more about Be Smart for Kids via besmartforkids.org. Visit momsdemandaction.org for more information about Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense In America.


March for Our Lives Hampton Roads events, coinciding with the march in Washington, D.C., will be held at noon, Saturday, March 24, at Nauticus in Norfolk and at Chesapeake City Hall. Find the events on Facebook for more information.


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