Marching in Fear and Hope
Saturday’s March for Our Lives was organized by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and was a collective cry for common sense gun legislation. I am the mother of two children; I marched because I fear for their lives. I fear that they will be exposed to unthinkable trauma. I fear that my children could grow up with a parent taken from them by a bullet. I know the possibility is remote. But I marched on Saturday because the fear is real. The gun safety drills in my daughter’s kindergarten class are real — and mandatory.
I also marched because I fear for my clients. As a public interest lawyer I know gun violence is an intersectional issue that disproportionately affects the most marginalized and victimized among us. Looking at the statistics I recognize the faces of our vulnerable clients.
Nearly two-thirds of firearm deaths in the U.S. are caused by suicide. Many of our clients suffer from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, or PTSD – a pervasive problem for the veterans we work with. Some of them could be at heightened risk of harming themselves if they are able to access a gun.
In an average month, 50 women are shot to death by intimate partners in the U.S. When a gun is present in a situation of domestic violence, the risk that a woman will be killed increases fivefold. An analysis of FBI data on mass shootings found that in more than half the cases a spouse, former spouse or other family member was among the victims and 16 percent of the attackers had previously been charged with domestic violence.
For two years in a row that same FBI report showed an overall increase in hate crimes, including a rise in bias-motivated violence against transgender individuals, most of whom were fatally shot. In many instances, the violence is fueled by anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, racism, and easy access to guns.
The poverty rate among African Americans is more than twice that of whites, and while African Americans make up 14 percent of the US population they account for over 50 percent of the victims of gun homicide. Even those who survive pay a price: gun violence shapes the lives of the millions of people -often children – who witness it, know someone who was shot, or live in fear of the next shooting.
On Saturday I marched because these statistics are not just tragic. They are racist, sexist, homophobic, and preventable. I marched for my family and for my clients.
On Saturday I felt our power. I watched teenagers register to vote for the November elections. Triumph! Heard the tiny voices of young children lead the swelling crowds around them in chants. Heart-wrenching. Sang for justice and change with the NYC March choir. Poetic. Joined thousands in expressing outrage at the system’s failures. Therapeutic.
I let the wave of hope and anger and fear and hope and hope and hope carry me down Central Park West – as a mother and a lawyer.