People Magazine took an unprecedented step to push for gun control laws this week. The magazine published the contacts for every member of Congress and urged their readers to use the information to send a clear message to their representatives.
After yet another mass shooting claimed nine victims at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon last week, People’s Editorial Director Jess Cagle felt compelled to do something apart from the magazine’s usual response to these horrific tragedies. Instead of just gathering up information about the victims or shooters and presenting it, he wanted to do something tangible to help push our representatives in Congress to hear those of us who are fed up with our country’s inaction. So he and his staff gathered up the phone numbers, emails, and Twitter handles of all 535 members of Congress.
He says in his Editor’s Letter:
“I think about mass shootings when I’m on a train, and when the lights go down in a movie theater, and when I see children in a classroom.
We need to know that our representatives in Washington, D.C., are looking for solutions and not giving up, and they need to know if we agree or disagree with their strategies. Below, we’ve provided phone numbers, email addresses (provided by the Sunlight Foundation’s OpenCongress project) and Twitter handles (when available) for all 535 voting members of the House and Senate. Let’s make sure they know that from now on, “routine” responses just won’t cut it.”
This is a huge statement for a publication like People to make, even though they insist its apolitical. The magazine has 3.5 million readers, and is using its huge platform to affect change — knowing there may be a backlash. And that is exactly what it takes. We can no longer be silent about something that is affecting the safety of our families, friends, and children. We can no longer pretend that there’s nothing we can do. Cagle notes that “so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 10,006 gun-related deaths in the United States, and the CDC says firearm injuries and deaths are ‘a significant public health problem.'”
The NRA has done a wonderful job of convincing us this is something we can’t fix — that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. But even those of us who are proud defenders of the Second Amendment realize that limiting access to guns by requiring background checks and mandatory waiting periods is not something that adversely affects the liberties of law-abiding Americans.
It’s gotten to the point where you can’t even say the word “gun” without someone accusing you of being anti-American or not understanding the importance of the Second Amendment. Every, single time I write about gun violence someone on the internet implores me to stick to “mommy” topics and keep my nose out of politics. I can’t think of anything more “mommy” than wanting my children to be safe when they leave the house. No parent should have to worry about their child dying on a college campus. Or in a movie theater. Or in a kindergarten class.
Enough is enough.
“Let’s hold our representatives’ feet to the fire and hear what they’re trying to do about this,” Cagle says. “There’s got to be a higher purpose to covering these events than just creating headlines.”