In Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday morning, a gunman opened fire at Republican members of Congress and their staff as they practiced for the upcoming bipartisan Congressional Baseball Game. As often happens after a headline-making shooting, Americans turned to the debate over gun control. But gun control advocates tells Bustle they don’t want partisan arguments, they want unity.
For those fighting for stricter gun laws, Wednesday was an uncomfortably familiar day. As usual, many called for stricter laws, such as universal background checks, making it harder for people like this shooter to get weapons like the one he used, while also expressing sympathy for the victims. Virginia Governor Terry McAulliffe, commenting on the incident, said "there are too many guns on the streets."
Complicating this matter was the political stance of those affected by the tragedy. Steve Scalise, the GOP Congressman from Louisiana who was shot in the incident, boasts on his website about his A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama witnessed the shooting, but quickly reiterated his support for the Second Amendment. He told reporter Sam Sweeney of ABC7:
The Second Amendment right to bear arms is to ensure that we always have a republic. And as with any constitutional provision in the Bill of Rights, there are adverse aspects to each of those rights that we enjoy as people. And what we just saw here is one of the bad side effects of someone not exercising those rights properly. But we’re not going to get rid of freedom of speech just because some people say some really ugly things that hurt other people’s feelings.
But for the activists who are fighting in this moment for gun control, moments like this call for an even greater need to stay united, and to express sympathy for the victims in a way that finds common ground.
"We're just trying to stay focused on making sure that we're supporting them," Lucy McBath, whose son Jordan Davis was murdered in 2012 at a gas station in a high-profile incident that made national news, tells Bustle. "I think every time one of these tragedies happens, it touches a pulse point in people, and people begin to recognize that they're not nearly as immune to gun violence as they think that they are. Americans should definitely be able to go dance in a nightclub, or play in a baseball field, or be able to observe their own religious events without the fear of being gun down. Americans deserve better than this and we can do better than this."
McBath adds, "I think that every time these tragedies happen, it just brings to life more and more how we're all responsible for safer communities."
For advocates, the common desire among Americans to have some sort of federal gun control legislation as an important point of unity in the debate.
"No matter what political party you belong to or where you're from, we are one nation that's had enough of this horrific violence," Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence, tells Bustle via email. "We all have the same goal here, to be safe. We're ALL tired of this. We agree on the goal, and there ARE solutions backed by 93 percent of Americans to get us there. All Americans, including our elected leaders, deserve to lead their daily lives without fear of being shot."