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The Massive Human and Moral Cost of Gun Violence

The US has spent $1.5 trillion on Iraq and Afghanistan wars so far, while ignoring the reality that the greatest threats to child safety come from enemies within.

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Read the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)’s new " Protect Children Not Guns: The Truth About Guns," which debunks myths that guns make you safe. Convene congregational and parent and community study groups and let the enormity of lost child and human life sweep over you and pierce your hearts and make you determined to wake up, stand up and do something! Check  CDF’s website regularly for steps you can take and that others are taking. Small acts by enough of us can set off big ripples across our nation and shake up our political leaders. The important thing is to care and to act and to keep acting for as long as it takes until the NRA’s lock on gun policy is broken. Stop shopping at stores that sell firearms over the counter -- making their purchase and use as routine and normal as a flashlight or toaster. Assault weapons should not be normalized and treated as a household product or glorified as American as apple pie. Turn off the violent TV shows. Stop buying the violent toys and video games and call for nonviolent conflict resolution and restorative justice training of our educators, faith leaders, children, and all of us. Let’s make violence unacceptable rather than acceptable in our nation which leads the world’s industrialized nations in military expenditures, in number of guns sold and in circulation (an estimated 300 million), and in child, youth, and adult civilian gun deaths.

At the height of the Vietnam War, anti-war demonstrators filled the Mall and confronted the president, Congress, and Pentagon calling for an end to that war. What is it going to take for the American people -- for you and for me -- to push the president and members of Congress and governors and state legislators to stand up to the NRA, gun manufacturers, and sellers? What is it going to take for them to place protection of children and youths and adults ahead of the protection of guns and profits and their election to office? How much is a child’s life worth in today’s political economy in America?

In 2013, as we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the dream of our gun-slain prophet of nonviolence, let us truly hear and follow rather than just celebrate him. Now is the time to free ourselves from the plague of gun violence which has taken over 1.3 million American lives since Dr. King and Robert Kennedy’s assassinations in 1968. This is twice the loss of life than all American battle casualties in all the major wars we have fought since our nation began: the Revolutionary War (4,435); the War of 1812 (2,260); the Mexican War (1,733); the Civil War (214,938); the Spanish American War (385); World War I (53,402); World War II (291,557); the Korean War (33,739); the Vietnam War (47,434); the Persian Gulf War (148); the Iraq War (3,518), and the war in Afghanistan (1,712). Isn’t it way past time for some hard soul searching about what we believe as Americans? Do we believe in the sanctity of life in America or don’t we? We decide.


Marian Wright Edelman is the president of the Children's Defense Fund.

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