Until people start to go into the streets and protest, we’re not going to see the changes… If you don’t have the people rising up, like what they did with civil rights, like what they did to end the Vietnam War… If you don’t have that, [politicians] are going to keep passing the buck.—Former Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich
Within the last few weeks, citizens in Israel and the republic of Georgia took to the streets and successfully stopped wildly unpopular actions by their governments. This spring, are we about to see that happen in the U.S.?
In the 24 years since the Columbine High School massacre, there have been 377 school shootings, and more than 349,000 students have experienced gun violence at school. Yet little has changed.
Yes, a month after last May’s school shootings in Uvalde, Texas, Congress passed modest gun reform legislation, the first law in nearly three decades. In the wake of the Nashville murders of six, including three 9-year-olds, isn’t it time to go further?
In the last week, we got a hint the answer is yes: Thousands of people, including many students, have flooded the Tennessee Capitol building demanding gun control. And on Wednesday, April 5, at noon local time, students across the country walked out of campuses in a coordinated campaign organized by Students Demand Action. The group published online a comprehensive action toolkit which, they say, can be used anytime.
We’re determined to be the last school shooting generation.— Students Demand Action (@StudentsDemand) April 5, 2023
Right now, thousands of students nationwide are walking out of class to demand action from our lawmakers and gun makers on gun violence. We need ACTION, not hollow thoughts and prayers. pic.twitter.com/EN9mEMxuzE
I hope that not just students—but people everywhere—will organize mass demonstrations in state capitals and Washington, D.C. Perhaps they’re being planned—right now—for the day before Mother’s or Father’s Day. Or, maybe, there will be rolling actions in the streets over the five weeks between those holidays (May 13–June 17).
I have a dream that the organizations working for gun reform are meeting, perhaps over Zoom, to coordinate a nationwide citizen uprising. Here’s an admittedly incomplete list of major groups working on gun control: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Change the Ref; Coalition to Stop Gun Violence; Everytown For Gun Safety; Giffords Courage to Fight Gun Violence; Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America; Sandy Hook Promise; and the aforementioned Students Demand Action. There’s plenty of opportunities for us to get involved with any of them.
Of course, the National Rifle Association (NRA), Gun Owners of America and their Republican enablers, are doubling down. After the Nashville shooting, U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who represents Knoxville, a couple hours from Nashville, told reporters that “laws don’t work” to curb gun violence. “It’s a horrible, horrible situation,” Burchett said. “And we’re not gonna fix it,” adding there isn’t “any real role” for Congress to play in reducing gun violence other than to “mess things up. I don’t think you’re gonna stop the gun violence. … I think you gotta change people’s hearts.”
Huh?! Too many hearts have stopped beating, Rep. Burchett. Too many hearts are bruised and broken. Still, because ours are still beating, we’re rising up. Burchett may believe there’s nothing to do; his constituents feel differently.
Students at Framingham High School participated in the @StudentsDemand National Walk Out protesting gun violence. The school’s active shooter alert was accidentally activated in February. “No one should go through an experience like that,” said student Sara Wolff. @NBC10Boston pic.twitter.com/cQxGHJx9eo— Bianca Beltrán (@BiancaNBCBoston) April 5, 2023
In just the first three months of the year, the Gun Violence Archive has counted 130 mass shootings in the United States.
So then why do I feel hopeful? When a conservative former Republican member of Congress and governor, like Kasich, urges citizens take to the streets to force politicians to pass gun laws with teeth, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind’s blowing.
The old John Kasich was a Second Amendment stalwart, toeing the party line, even once boasting that he was in good standing with the NRA. That was then. Now, as Kasich said recently on national television, he’s been reading up on the civil rights era Montgomery bus boycott, seeing the connection between that campaign and today.
“Those women down there in Montgomery. They just kept marching. They kept doing everything they could. And that’s what it’s going to take here,” he said.
With tens of thousands of people in the ex-Soviet state of Georgia, and hundreds of thousands across Israel rising up, anything is possible here. Outpourings at the Tennessee statehouse are just the beginning.
Former Gov. Kasich is encouraging people to “begin to get into the street and say enough of this… We all have to mobilize. Without it, the politicians will look the other way. [I]t’s not going to happen in a week or two. It has to be ongoing in order to get this changed.”
From a Republican politician’s mouth to God’s ears. It’s time.
U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.