To the parents of the 58 from the mother of one of the 49:
On Monday morning, I woke up to the news that there had been a shooting during a music festival in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and hospitalized more than 500. I felt chills and a horrible sense of déjà vú. I knew how the rest of the day would unfold for many of you, how your lives are now shattered.
Exactly 492 days ago, I also awoke to the news that there had been a shooting — in Orlando, at a nightclub. Until Sunday, it was the worst mass shooting in modern American history. It took more than 24 hours to confirm that my beloved 31-year-old son, Jerry Wright, was among the 49 dead. I would never again hear his voice, hold his hand, feel his hug, tease him and be teased by him, or share the special language and connection that we had always had. His life was cut short because a dangerous person, filled with hate, had had easy access to a gun.
People come up to me and say, “I can’t even imagine…” and they will say it to you too. I know that they can’t, but I so wish that they could. If everyone could truly imagine what losing your child to a shooting feels like, to know the heartbreak we live with everyday, the gun violence prevention discussion would already be over. We would already have found the will to make the changes we need to make our society safer.
As my heart bleeds for those beginning this horrible ordeal — the injured who will have to rebuild their lives and bodies, the traumatized who will never get the images and sounds of that night out of their heads and out of their souls, and you, the loved ones left behind in a desert of pain and desolation — I have to ask, yet again, when will it be enough?
How many more lives must we have to lose and how many must suffer before we find the courage to make the policy changes needed to stop this?
Are we willing to accept that the possibility of being killed as we go to the store, the movies, the mall, to school, a nightclub, or a concert is just the risk of living in the United States? This is not normal, and it doesn’t have to be like this!
Our nation’s gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than the average of other developed countries. This is a uniquely American crisis. This shooting is a tragedy. Yet just as tragic is the daily drumbeat of shootings in this country, and worse, our growing acceptance of their regularity. Only in America is the phrase “yet another mass shooting” part of our vocabulary. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. They don’t fully honor what we have lost and will continue to lose if we don’t demand an end to gun violence.
Too many of our leaders are saying that this is the time to mourn and not the time to talk about policy. I would say it’s too late. I’ve been mourning since Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, and especially since Orlando — and now I mourn with those of you whose friends, children, partners, siblings, or parents were killed on Sunday night. We cannot afford to wait. We have already lost too many beloved souls like my son. As those of us who are in this club of grieving now know, one is too many!
This is a moment of reckoning. For years, the gun lobby and their allies in Congress have pushed a “guns everywhere” agenda. This week, with the SHARE Act, they were scheduled to try to gut the laws that govern the use and purchase of silencers. People fled in Las Vegas because they heard the gunshots. Can you imagine what the toll would have been if people attending the concert, and first responders, hadn’t heard the gunshots or where they were coming from?
The gun lobby is also pushing “concealed carry reciprocity”— dangerous legislation that would override states’ gun laws. This law doesn’t create a national standard for who can carry a hidden, loaded gun in public; instead it forces every state to accept the concealed carry standards of every other state, even if those standards are nonexistent, as in states like Idaho and Arizona that do not require permits at all.
Yet many of our leaders seem to think that protecting the gun manufacturers’ bottom line is more important than our safety. They cower and cave under pressure from the gun lobby.
It’s time we demand they think of us and the safety of our communities and our loved ones. To the parents of the 58, I stand with you. I know your pain. I know your heartbreak. Know that millions across the country have your back, and we will stand beside you to help you honor your children’s lives.
To join the movement to end gun violence and to reject the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda, please text REJECT to 64433. To honor Las Vegas, and all those lost to the epidemic of gun violence, it’s time to demand courage and conviction from our elected officials. It is time to ACT.