How To Help Young People Save Lives
BY JERRY WITKOVSKY
Feature image: Students participate in a protest against gun violence outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Two articles I read catapulted me to action.
The first, in the Washington Post, identified seven gun laws that would have a powerful impact on reducing gun violence: red flag laws, relinquishment laws, assault weapons bans, high-capacity magazine bans, gun possession prohibitions for high-risk individuals, gun possession prohibitions for individuals with domestic violence convictions and mandatory background checks. In the article (access it here) journalists Leslie Shapiro, Sahil Chinoy and Aaron Williams, created a grid showing which states have these laws and which do not.
My vision for change is simple.
My vision is to have grandparents and grandchildren work together in their own state to get these seven specific laws in place. Simultaneously we will work to have these laws enacted on a federal level.
The second article is one that resonates with me personally as a veteran of World War II. Yes, you read that right — World War II. I was in the occupational services in 1946, stationed in Japan. The article was an OpEd piece from US Military Veterans. #VetsforGunReform. Their sentiment is how I feel, “We’re combat veterans. We support the students demanding gun reform.”
As veterans, we have first-hand fear and knowledge of what it feels like to be shot at. Many of us fought in wars: World War II, Vietnam, the Korean War, the Gulf War. We were trained to love our guns. We were trained that our gun was our best friend and protector. We were trained to kill. We also saw the pain and death caused by guns.
“We’re combat veterans. We support the students demanding gun reform.”
During WWII, in homes where a husband or son was killed in the war, there was a gold star on a pennant in their window. That’s how you knew. Violence affected our communities and we were scared. Just as we are scared now.
We need to change gun laws.
Grandparents and Grandchildren Together
We grandparents are so inspired by the voices of young people taking action. Who are speaking out. We love that some have connected with organizers of #metoo and the Women’s March to collaborate, build coalitions, and raise their voices to a scream.
Yet even a scream is not loud enough. We want to stand with our grandchildren to amplify their voices. We already vote, as they will soon, too. We often know our local politicians. We have been active. We have donated to political campaigns. We have a network and connections. We are vocal.
We grandparents are so inspired by the voices of young people taking action.
We can help our grandchildren. We can introduce them to legislators who have the power to pass the laws we want passed. We can “get out the vote” for our grandchildren as they run for office. Think of the cultural change they can make in this country. Your grandchild can run for office in Kansas, Vermont and other states right now. There is no age limit on how young (or old) you can be to run for office in these states.
Grandparents are afraid. We have seen death. We have felt despair. We are also a sign of hope, having lived full lives in the face of these challenges.
And we are guilty. It is all of the generations before our grandchildren who created the gun culture in our society that they must now face. We made it happen, whether deliberately or by not speaking out sooner. We are responsible for helping to make it right.
My goal is very specific and very doable. Get all 50 states to adopt the seven laws outlined by the Washington Post.
Together we can make change happen
Thank god we have a Constitution that allows us to do more than shake our fists. Together we can make change happen.
I say to my dearest grandchildren: I am available Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday of this week and next. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – JERRY WITKOVSKY
Jerry Witkovsky, author of The Grandest Love is a long-time social work professional, grandparenting activist, and passionate grandpa. Jerry offers fresh approaches to help grandparents enter their grandchild’s world, to leave values, not just valuables and create a living legacy. Jerry created the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection School Program and curricula with Deanna Shoss, President & CEO of Intercultural Talk, Inc., in 2016, to work with schools as the platform to teach grandparents and grandchildren how to enter each other’s world. Learn more here