Remember where you were on December 14th 2012? Recall the grief you felt hearing that Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown Connecticut had been violently targeted by a single shooter? I can. The emotion is as overpowering and unwanted as a raging arson fire. Within seconds after the shooting we were flooded through every possible media with heartbreaking images, leaving us all to retreat into a place beyond words. December 14th is not a day we want to remember, but I will, for not only were innocent children and their brave educators gunned down that day, but something in all of us shattered.
Sandy Hook wasn’t the first school to gain notoriety through gun violence and since the shooting it hasn’t been the last, but the sheer ruthlessness of the murders in a place associated with safety and learning, as well as the tender ages of those children and the heroics of their guardians, hit most Americans hard. I say most because in the ensuing months I found some people more defensive about their right to stockpile guns than engage in a honest conversation about the epidemic of gun-related deaths in our country. But I am getting ahead of myself, for at first, during the months after the shooting, all I felt was a hopeless helplessness. That is until one Spring day walking along the Santa Monica beach when my brother spoke to me about his plan to honor the first Newtown anniversary by asking people to put their guns down.
(click the link to watch)
Once I heard of Guns Down Day I felt empowered that such a simple idea would spread with fury. We created a Guns Down Day website, a Guns Down Day Facebook page, @gunsdownday on Twitter, all along fueled with the belief that everyone would be willing to put their gun down for one day. And shut off their violent video games. And the big networks would rise to this challenge by creating plot lines sans guns. It is only now that I can see how naive we were, because at the time we were fueled with blind enthusiasm for what felt meaningful and doable. Our hope was on this very finite day, this one year anniversary, we would turn our grief into action and honor those who died by leaving guns out of reach.
By creating Guns Down Day we stumbled on the Sandy Hook Promise and Moms Demand Action. Both organizations provide avenues for people to change our current gun laws. It is with great enthusiasm that I can say these grassroots movements have started moving that big wheel forward. We also witnessed other ways people were pulling together on the heels of tragedy; parents of the murdered Sandy Hook children who refuse to let this tragedy define them, and are instead, instituting a whole range of events and foundations to allow their children’s memory to yield something hopeful, such as What Would Daniel Do.
In the end, while Guns Down Day did not garner the movement behind it we had originally hoped. The NRA-funded fanaticism to stockpile your home with military-style weapons is a loud foil. But Guns Down Day did illuminate a way beyond hopelessness and reveal the magnitude of possibilities when a community comes together in miraculous ways. December 14th will be a sad day, but the anniversary has already become a beacon for change. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This December 14th, and all the days to come, let us walk together on a well-lit path of truth, leaving guns and fear behind.