Shannon Watts is a mother of five in suburban Indianapolis. When the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred in 2012 in Newtown, Conn. – taking the lives of 20 children and six school staff members who died trying to save students – Watts decided she had to do something.
Watts started a Facebook page about gun violence that is now called Moms Demand Action. The group has 6 million members and chapters in all 50 states. It has helped change gun laws in 27 states across the country, including some with Republican governors who signed gun legislation into law.
One woman. One mom.
Then there’s Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He’s served in the Senate since 1985, became minority leader in 2007 and majority leader in 2015.
As majority leader, McConnell wields enormous power. But on many important matters, including gun violence, McConnell decides to do nothing. Rather than using his power to stop senseless killings by guns that happen on average to 100 people every day in America, McConnell uses his power to stop votes.
One man. One politician.
This week the Senate is scheduled to address gun violence … or at least that’s what some senators are claiming. Several weeks after several more mass killings, including two in Texas, the country is still waiting for the Senate to act.
The Democratic-controlled House passed gun violence legislation last February, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reminded reporters last week when they asked her if she should have brought the House back from its summer break to address gun violence.
Since the House passed gun control legislation six months ago, more than 18,000 Americans people died from gunshots.
And Mitch McConnell does nothing.
Why is McConnell afraid to allow a vote on gun violence legislation? Is it President Trump? The National Rifle Association? What does McConnell fear?
Why aren’t McConnell and Senate Republicans more afraid of more kids, and more of their constituents, getting killed by guns?
It is inexplicable in the face of the overwhelming public support for gun control. In a country that is described daily as divided and polarized, polls show that about 90 percent of voters want universal background checks for gun purchases and 70 percent want assault weapons banned. With these poll numbers, a vote for gun legislation should be an easy one to cast.
As I watched Shannon Watts speak Saturday in Springfield, Mass., before the state Democratic Convention she reminded me of what one person can do. The difference one person can make in the lives of millions of people. Shannon Watts has made a difference and saved lives.
Imagine if Mitch McConnell had the courage of Shannon Watts.
Imagine if Shannon Watts was the Senate majority leader rather than Mitch McConnell. What a difference it would make in the lives of millions of Americans who would be safer from gun violence.
The fear of being killed by gun violence would actually be reduced.
Remember a time when children didn’t go to school to practice active shooter drills? When they could learn in a place that was more like a school than a prison with armed guards? When kids didn’t worry that they could be killed in their classroom? When everyone enjoyed going to movies, fairs, festivals and going shopping without fear? When we could worship in churches and synagogues without fear, and go to work without the worry of being killed by a gun?
We used to live without these fears not long ago. The United States of America, the country the world holds as the beacon of freedom, is a prison of fear due to the proliferation of guns in our society.
And right now it is Mitch McConnell’s fear that is forcing millions of Americans to live in fear.
It is time for Senate Republicans to stand up to Mitch McConnell. It is time for Mitch McConnell to stand up to Trump and the NRA.
It is time for gun violence legislation to pass the Senate and become law. It is time to be like Shannon Watts and demand action.