As mothers, we fix a lot of small things. We put Band-Aids on skinned knees, glue action figures back together, mend holes in beloved stuffed animals. When our children come to us for help, whether it’s with second grade math homework or because they are scared of the monster under their bed, we find a solution.
We also fix big things.
When huge numbers of children died regularly in car accidents, we changed laws. Between 1977 and 1985, all 50 states adopted one or more laws aimed at reducing harm to infants and child passengers by requiring the use of some sort of child restraint device. We didn’t stop there. We pushed harder. We advocated not only for child restraint devices in cars, but age and size appropriate devices including booster seats. We researched, we tested, and we passed better and more specific laws. And between 2002 and 2011, the number of child deaths in car accidents decreased by 43%.
When over 4,000 babies died per year as a result of SIDS in the early 1990s, we launched a massive campaign to address this problem. We started the Back to Sleep movement, and in 5 years, the number of SIDS deaths dropped by more than 50%. We didn’t stop there. We knew we could do better, and so we researched and continued to change the recommendations for safe sleep. We are still fighting this battle and coming up with safer sleep conditions, decades later.
When drunk driving took the life of 13-year-old Carrie Lightner, her mother founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) at her kitchen table. One mother, the mothers who joined her, and the movement they championed changed laws at both the state and federal levels. Today 55% fewer people are killed as a result of drunk driving than when the organization was founded in 1980.
When too many of our babies died as a result of unsafe cribs, we found a solution. Starting in 2011, federal safety guidelines prohibited the manufacture and sale of drop sided cribs.
When nearly 300 children under five die each year from accidental drownings in swimming pools, we looked for an answer. We advocated for safety and even changed laws in certain states to require fencing or barriers around residential pools.
When we recognize a problem that is affecting our children, we find solutions. We always have, as mothers and as Americans. Because our children depend on us to do so.
And yet in 2018, we find ourselves in a country where nearly 1,300 children die each year and more than 5,000 are injured as a result of gun violence. Whatever your politics, there has to be a common ground when it comes to agreeing that those numbers are too high. As mothers, we simply cannot accept those numbers, because we are better than that. We have proven ourselves better. We have proven that when something hurts our children, routinely and predictably, we fix it.
When it comes to issues like SIDS, drunk driving, car and crib deaths, helmet or pool safety, we don’t simply shake our heads, offer our prayers, and move on. We don’t resign ourselves to preventable deaths when it comes to our children.
We look for the root causes. We examine the issue from every possible side. We throw ourselves into research and policy change and advocacy. We educate ourselves and then we educate others. We explore every possible avenue for change. We demand that our leaders and our regulatory agencies listen to us, because the stakes are just too high.
We have to do the same for gun violence. We have to put aside our politics and our differences. We have to come together as mothers first. And as mothers it doesn’t matter who voted for who. It doesn’t matter what news channels you watch. Nothing matters except for finding a way to fix this, because our children are dying. They are dying from everyday violence that doesn’t make headlines, from gang-related shootings and accidents in their homes. And they are dying in mass in places like Parkland and Sutherland Springs and Sandyhook. These are our children. These are their lives and their bright, beautiful futures.
We have shown that we are willing to change anything and everything to make our kids safer, from our cribs to our car seats to the way we put our babies to sleep. We spend every second of every day assessing our environment through the lens of what could hurt them, and when we see something we can change, something fixable, there is no hesitation.
And yet when it comes to gun violence, all we have done is hesitate. We have let this epidemic go unchecked. We have let ourselves get swept up in the narrative that this is a political issue, that something that so directly endangers our children’s lives should be out of our control. Addressing gun violence in America shouldn’t be a political debate. It should be a universal problem in which everyone has a vital stake, a problem that will require a complex and multifaceted solution that must include common sense gun legislation.
We’re their parents. We are the ones who must protect them, no matter how hard it is, no matter how much time it takes, no matter what laws need to be changed, no matter the fight we encounter. One mother can move mountains when it comes to protecting her child. A group of mothers can shift a continent.
So, let’s roll up our sleeves and rise to the occasion.