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Furious about gun violence? Let your voice be heard

Furious about people getting shot and killed?

There is only one solution: Speak up to make your position on gun violence known to legislators. Contact every person in elected office who refuses to consider any safety proposal designed to save lives, even those supported by almost 90 percent of Missourians.

I spent nine years in the legislature watching  gun lobby bills pass overwhelmingly, despite law enforcement and public outcry, against making guns easier to access without question.  

You can lobby them and call them ad nauseum. But those owned by the gun lobby will not defy to whom they belong. On the federal level, the gun lobby money trail is widely public. 

On the state level, gun lobby donations are purposely disguised. But state lawmakers voting records are just sitting there waiting for the public to notice.  

I’ve been furious since the 1999 Los Angeles Jewish Community Center shooting and the historic Mother’s Day 2000 Million Mom March in D.C. which every single national Jewish organization supported.  I was furious after being first elected in 2009 and fought back as the legislative majority legalized assault weapons, loosened gun laws and expanded guns everywhere.  Voter apathy crept in. Then Sandy Hook happened. 

Most of us today are sick, disgusted and furious.  Hate and white supremacy are exploding and none of us is safe anywhere from being shot, regardless of where we live.  

State policy is essentially decided in November elections every two years when the majority of voters stay home.  Non-voters have produced a gun lobby owned supermajority in the state capitol which controls the House, Senate and governor’s office.  That leadership decides what bills have hearings, what bills pass, what bills are ignored and even who gets to debate. 

Fifty-nine percent of registered voters showed up for the November 2018 election, the highest midterm turnout in years. Many just voted top of the ticket and not down ballot. Yet half of Missouri eligible voters aren’t even registered. How do we get you all to just show up? 

Collectively, we hold the power to reduce fatalities and keep guns out of the hands of children and dangerous people.  Not one proposal will save every life but Judaism teaches, “if we can save one life, we save the world.” 

What furious people can do right now: Make it your mission to vote out gun lobby-owned officials in every single election - every mayor, every school board, every state legislator, even in special elections. Your voting history is public information.  We know who votes but not how.  Don’t sit at home with a thousand excuses waiting to be cajoled as the next mass shooting makes us gasp.

What furious people must do next:

1. Learn who your state legislators are: www.House.mo.gov. Call/email them with your stance.

2. Find out from the county election board your next election (several special election races are this November).  St. Louis County: https://www.stlouisco.com/yourgovernment/ElectionBoard.

3. The Missouri legislative session reconvenes in January 2019. Demand your legislators, regardless of party, be vocal champions in hearings and on the floor, not just show up to vote when the bell rings.  

4. Candidate filing for every statewide/legislative seat opens late February 2019.  Don’t have a vocal anti-gun violence champion in your district? Then you run.

5. Insist every single candidate run on saving lives.  Demand their campaign messages/mailings include their gun violence stance. Call them. They refuse to answer?  Have excuses? Broadcast their stance as wide as possible.

6. Trust when vocal groups/champions tell you what is needed — DO IT.  Petition drives, rallies and meetings can be tiresome but each has a purpose.  Push your groups to do more. 

7. Seriously, when we say it’s all about voter contact, believe us.  Don’t keep telling us you don’t “like” knocking doors or phoning voters.  Voter contact — face-to-face, house to house, voice to voice — is crucial and the only thing that actually encourages voters to show up.   

8. Don’t waste time arguing gun lobby talking points and engaging with those who support hate.

9. Be vocal on social media, in letters to the editor and throughout your community – your voice is powerful. Help keep the gun violence issue front and center.

10. Candidates cannot make you vote.  You alone have that power.  Don’t wait for a candidate to track you down — do your own homework on their gun position. Collect your family/friends and insist they vote with you in every election to save lives.

Stacey Newman is founder and director of ProgressWomen, an organization that since 2011 has informed, trained and organized thousands of Missourians on issues of reproductive rights, justice and equality through a feminist lens. From 2009 to Jan. 9, 2019 Newman was Missouri state representative of the 87th District, which includes Clayton and parts of Brentwood, Ladue, Richmond Heights and University City.