pause + rewind + try again

don’t tell me what to do

If only it were that simple. 
Guns aren’t the problem, 
it’s a mental health crisis. 
Guns don’t kill people, 
only those with mental health issues do. 
We have a right to bear arms,
except we forget it’s supposed to be a well-regulated militia

Don’t make me wear a mask, 
but please teach the children to hide. 
Life is sacred and we’re pro-life, 
except more children and teachers have died. 
We don’t want to be told what to do,
unless it’s your body and your choices. 

Nothing is simple, 
except protecting our children. 
Mental health matters,
except for traumatizing our children (again).
We have rights,
except for our children to attend school safely. 

Don’t tell me what to do,
but I’ll make the rules. 
You must care for all lives we deem worthy,
but we aren’t going to make it feasible. 
We all have rights,
but only those of some seem to matter. 

These are the words of a mother, a pastor, an educator, a wife, a daughter, and a friend who is full of rage and heartbreak. I have sat through multiple lockdown drills, have lamented the ones my daughter has endured, and mourn the innumerable hours educators have spent preparing for the eventual. School shootings, mass shootings, and gun violence of all its stripes and varieties are becoming mundane. You will offer your thoughts and prayers for a time, but soon you will forget. 

There are children and loved ones being mourned today, tomorrow, and for always. But let’s remember your guns. They are what’s most important. You have the right to bear arms and form a militia, but you forget it should be well regulated. These rules don’t matter, because you’ll stop these shootings from happening with your guns. 

But here’s the thing…YOU HAVEN’T!
The guns keep landing in the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, and they are murdering Americans of all ages and races. 

When will there be enough blood on our hands? 
How high must the body count get before it matters?
When are we allowed to tell you what to do?

I’m telling you now:
This blood is on your hands. 
The body count is already too high. 
I have had enough of your thoughts and prayers.

pause + rewind + try again

enough with the thoughts and prayers

In Virginia Beach, Virginia there was yet another mass shooting.

Another day, week, month, year where even more people are dying from gun violence.

I’ve had enough with the thoughts and prayers, it’s time for action.

Step One

The first thing I’m doing is taking the time to remember the names of each of the victims.


Virginia Beach, VA victims: Laquita C. Brown, Tara Welch Gallagher, Mary Louise Gayle, Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Katherine A. Nixon, Richard H. Nettleton, Christopher Kelly Rapp, Ryan Keith Cox, Joshua A. Hardy, Michelle "Missy" Langer, Robert "Bobby…Virginia Beach, VA victims: Laquita C. Brown, Tara Welch Gallagher, Mary Louise Gayle, Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Katherine A. Nixon, Richard H. Nettleton, Christopher Kelly Rapp, Ryan Keith Cox, Joshua A. Hardy, Michelle "Missy" Langer, Robert "Bobby…

Virginia Beach, VA victims: Laquita C. Brown, Tara Welch Gallagher, Mary Louise Gayle, Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Katherine A. Nixon, Richard H. Nettleton, Christopher Kelly Rapp, Ryan Keith Cox, Joshua A. Hardy, Michelle “Missy” Langer, Robert “Bobby” Williams, Herbert “Bert” Snelling

Step Two

The next thing I’ve done and will continue to do, is refuse to know the name of the shooter. Each time I read or see a news report that includes their name, I close it or turn it off. I refuse to have this murder’s name sealed in my brain. I will not let them have a moment of fame, if I have any say in the matter.

Step Three

I will also ensure that my elected officials are doing something to prevent this from happening again. I was a high school student when Columbine happened, and by the time I was eighteen, I didn’t think this needed to be top of my voting priorities. Then the Virginia Tech shooting happened when I was in graduate school. By then, I had voted in multiple elections and began to realize something may need to change in my voting priorities. In the 12 years that followed, countless mass shootings have occurred and one of these is in my home state, AGAIN.

My congresswoman is doing what she can to work towards better gun regulation.

While I fully recognize and uphold our constitutional right to bear arms, I do not consent to the murder of innocent children and adults. I don’t have all of the answers (yet) on how we proceed, but I will not stop until the situation is better. I know that mental health is a big piece of the overall picture, but guns are still the weapon of choice in these atrocities. I want to learn from each side of this “debate” that shouldn’t be a debate at all. If we as Americans believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we cannot allow our fellow Americans to lose their opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We need more than thoughts and prayers to make this happen. We need conversations (NOW) and we need actionable change.

The status quo cannot remain or more lives will be lost.

Just last week, a mass shooting was prevented at Cleveland High School, close to where Erica grew up. As his fellow students practiced for graduation, a Cleveland high school senior managed to get a loaded 9mm, multiple loaded magazines, and other weapons onto school grounds. Authorities were tipped off by a student and made the arrest before any violence happened, fortunately.  While I am eternally grateful that the police were proactive, I have to question how a young adult of highschool age was able to obtain all these supplies? It is terrifying to think that a person who can’t even vote can procure an armory of weapons to carry out a plan of mass-execution. It is not important at this point whether guns are a problem. (They are.) What is more important is understanding what compels one human to want to inflict harm upon others. Where is our compassion?

What if…

Instead of immediately jumping to defend our right to bear arms, what if we investigate how this privilege keeps falling into the wrong hands? If we are truly pro-life, then we need to start focusing on helping each of us live. Now. We need to protect and value each other. We owe it to ourselves to try and understand each other better, to be kind, to be compassionate.

To end today’s conversation, I share with you, these words from my congresswoman, Abigail Spanberger:

In the wake of these tragedies, we always offer thoughts and prayers, but people in office – at the state and federal level – can make changes. We can fight this violence, and we must do it to honor the lives of the Americans who are murdered each year.

In the House of Representatives, we passed bipartisan legislation to require background checks on all firearm purchases. We passed bipartisan legislation to close the “Charleston loophole” so that law enforcement has the necessary time to return a background check and ensure that those who are prohibited buyers can’t buy a gun because of timing.

These meaningful efforts would save lives. Both of these bills are being held up for a vote in the Senate. Meaning-> Senate Majority Leader McConnell is simply refusing to bring these bills up for a vote. Our good legislation cannot become law unless he allows a vote.

There are additional bills in the House aimed at addressing risk factors, training in de-escalation, and ensuring individuals in crisis who are a threat to themselves or others can be helped and not able to take their own lives or the lives of others. They are good bills, and we will keep working them.

At the state level, I urge my elected colleagues to continue fighting for basic legislation that would help make our communities safer.

And if your elected representative isn’t fighting for our communities or helping to get good bills out of the committees for a full House of Delegates or State Senate vote, get behind a candidate who will and vote on November 5, 2019.

So what are we going to do?

C


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motherhood, taking care

this is NOT a drill

Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook,  may be old news, but the story is all too fresh. There have been three more school shootings this week alone. Sadly, all of these incidents make up a mere fraction of the mass shootings that have occurred in the last 18 years. It seems we still haven’t learned, and things certainly haven’y improved. They say if you don’t study history and learn from it you are destined to repeat it. How many shootings of innocent people will it take before our lesson is learned?

In my professional life, I spend at least three days a week in local schools; to date, I have experienced multiple “lock-down” situations. A few have been drills, but one was not. I was confined to the school gym with one of my student employees for a LONG while. We had no idea why we were on lock-down, but together, we sat and waited, not knowing what was really happening. As nervous as I was inside, I had to stay calm and maintain my composure to keep my student calm. It turned out there was no active shooter at the school, BUT there was an armed suspect who had fled from the local police. I’m thankful the police alerted the school and that the administration acted swiftly to keep everyone safe.

The Friday before the shooting in Las Vegas, I was caught at a school during another lock-down. This time I knew that this was only a drill, so I went about my business at the school as if everything was normal. I left the room where I was working to pick up supplies from another area within the school. On my way, I was stopped by a school administrator who reprimanded me for walking down the hallway rather than staying where I was.  At the time, I was so irritated that the drill interfered with the work I was trying to get done. In retrospect, I had taken that drill for granted, I had forgotten what it was like to be in a real lock-down situation. I was annoyed where I should have been grateful for the practice of keeping me out of harm’s way; a “practice” that could potentially save my life.

It seems unbelievable that this is our reality. That churches, schools, concerts, and festivals; places where communities join together, places of revelry and fellowship; have become the backdrop for mass shootings. It does not feel right that my children, husband, family, and friends could be caught in an active-shooter circumstance at any time, on any given day. It is damn frightening to think that these drills COULD, in fact,  turn into real-life situations.  Something has to change. Or perhaps WE have to CHANGE SOMETHING  so these shootings stop happening.

I believe unequivocally that we can make a difference in shaping a safer future. This is not a debate about our second amendment rights, nor is it a dismissal of the numerous responsible gun owners out there. No matter your stance on this issue, we must work TOGETHER to make changes to our gun legislation. It will not be easy, but I am committed to having the tough conversations to pushing us forward. It starts with understanding gained through listening and sharing. I hope you’ll join the dialogue, too.

How many innocent people have to die before we’re willing to have the conversation? To not just speak, but to listen to the other side of the debate…To explore the possibility that things could be better than they are.

Every day there are lives at stake. What will it take for us to change?


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