An Open Letter to My Allies:
Normally I use the media to put my opponents on blast, to let the gun lobby know that we’re all on to the fact that they’re using money from firearms manufacturers to buy politicians who are either so weak in character that they’ll knowingly degrade laws meant to protect American lives or too stupid to know better.
Sometimes I even use the media to let those of you out there who are fed up — with daily mass shootings, lockdown drills in elementary schools and nothing but “thoughts and prayers” in response — know that there is a movement brewing.
All across this nation, including Louisiana, there are millions of advocates for gun sense who are actively taking on the gun lobby, namely the NRA, and winning — just like we did here in Louisiana’s most recent legislative session. And no, this isn’t just about gun “control,” which is why we don’t use that word. It is about common-sense gun laws, just like those pushed by the NRA a few decades ago before their leadership was overrun by fringe extremists.
But let me talk to someone else. I have heard from state reps, senatorial candidates and even fellow activists who quietly support common-sense, life-saving gun measures but who are afraid to say so in the light of day.
Let me put you on notice. Gun sense is winning. We defeated the gun lobby last session and we will continue to do so. Extremists in the state legislature introduced a handful of bills that would have devastated Louisiana.
The bill proposing what’s called “permitless carry” would have allowed 17-year-olds to carry loaded, hidden guns in public with absolutely NO training or licensing of any kind. The author of this particular bill didn’t even realize that he’d accidentally done away with the 21-or-older provision in current law and was proposing to arm minors. Our lawyers had to tell him.
Another bill would have allowed out-of-state gun extremist groups to sue any Louisiana town that tried to create a protective gun law of any kind. The gun lobby actually passed this monstrosity in Pennsylvania, which was immediately and predictably sued by Bubba and Jim Bob Gun Extremists of Texas (names changed to protect the idiocracy), costing taxpayers dearly.
But those of us with two brain cells to rub together are not alone. The Louisiana Violence Reduction Coalition was able to organize hundreds of Louisiana mayors and police chiefs to oppose these bills. The Sheriff’s Association even stood with us because they are the ones who’d have to clean up the blood had the NRA deepened its control of our legislature.
This year we’ve seen gun sense become a staple of both presidential campaigns. It is no longer the political third rail. If you lawmakers and legislators think you can maintain your ill-advised and negligent silence on this issue then, bless your hearts, you are on the wrong side of history. And if you continue to cower in fear of the gun lobby and persistently refuse to support the common-sense measures your constituents want and need, I will no longer be polite.
Let me put you on notice. Our state has a gun homicide rate three times higher than the already disgusting national average. It is the duty of every citizen who is invested in creating safe and responsible communities to educate themselves in this blunt truth.
If you’re still using debunked NRA talking points then you have failed the constituents whose lives you seek to better. Gun sense is a women’s issue. It is an economic-justice issue. It is a race issue. It is an LGBTQ issue. It’s your issue.
And I know, fellow advocates and activists, that the idea of taking on yet another foe in a state already busting at the seams with them can seem daunting. But know this: gun violence intersects all that other work you’re doing.
You can’t seriously think that a domestic violence survivor would be safer with a gun in her dresser drawer, when we’ve known for ages that the presence of a gun in the home makes a woman — any woman! — five times more likely to die by that gun.
And Louisiana is not the lost cause that the gun lobby would have you think it is. We believe in being our brothers’ keepers. We are the ones who will show up and check on our neighbors if we haven’t seen them in a while, and we won’t even make up an excuse to be there! We are a communal people who fiercely protect our own, and it is an embarrassment that our elected officials have allowed us to become the nation’s gun violence leader.
Did you know that 85 percent of black men killed in this state are shot to death?
So, allies, I will gladly send you resources and scientifically validated statistics to further your education, but I will no longer accept that you simply can’t find time to take this on. The stakes are too high to wait for someone else to address this crisis.
Let me put you on notice:
When I bring a grieving mother into your office because she doesn’t want other toddlers shot by negligently stored firearms the way her son was, don’t you dare tell us that you’re “actually with us, but can’t do anything in Louisiana.” Shame on you.
When I bring a child who lost a father because a known dangerous person still had legal access to a firearm, don’t you dare tell me that comprehensive background checks wouldn’t be effective. You are both wrong and disgusting.
And when I tell you of my own childhood friends who died at the hands of their father, a known abuser, please don’t try to explain that this state still allows some abusers to possess guns and how you “can’t do anything about it.”
I will no longer hold my tongue when you explain that your inaction is somehow understandable. I will tell you to your face that you’re no better than the gun lobby shills among your fellow legislators.
Dragging your feet is costing us in blood. And maybe they aren’t dying in your neighborhood, but they’re dying in ours.
I know better than most how much of a struggle this work is in Louisiana. I grew up in one of this state’s most beautiful rural towns. David Duke was my state rep; the first political signs I ever saw as a child were ones he placed.
We cannot rest. We cannot accept anything less than a legislature intelligent and courageous enough to fight the carnage.
I will hold your feet to the fire, allies. We deserve better from you.
Victoria Coy, executive director of the Louisiana Violence Reduction Coalition, will be a panelist at a discussion on gun violence following a screening of John Richie’s award-winning documentary, “91%,” Thursday night at Tulane.