Action After Gun Violence: How to Turn Your Grief Into Purpose

In light of the horrific November 4th shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, 32 days after the one in Las Vegas, we wanted to re-share the below information on processing and helping in the aftermath of such tragic gun violence. Scroll down to find an updated list of resources, which includes how you can help the victims’ families in Texas.

For as gut-wrenching as this week has been in the wake of Sunday’s deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, it’s felt terrifyingly familiar. The same stomach drops, the same tears, the same frustrating fights. Even from the sidelines it feels like a living nightmare, and the closer you get to the nexus, the more horrific things become. I understand the self-preserving urge to close eyes, step away, drown out the noise. I understand wanting to back away from the “face-melting rage,” the circular arguing, the unavoidable grief and the discomfort bred from wanting to move on but not being able to. If you feel this way, you aren’t alone. I feel it, too. But as the number of gun deaths in this country grows, it’s impossible to not weigh the cost of inaction against that of history repeating itself.

“You’ve become inoculated,” Congressman Steve Israel wrote in his New York Times oped this morning. “You’ll read this essay and others like it, and turn the page or click another link. You’ll watch or listen to the news and shake your head, then flip to another channel or another app. This horrific event will recede into our collective memory. That’s what the gun lobbyists are counting on. They want you to forget.”

Many conservative media outlets are saying it’s insensitive to use the Vegas shooting as an opportunity to discuss gun control, but the lack of regulation around firearms in this country and the resulting abuse of them are inextricably linked. Failing to draw that connection, explore it and pick it apart when it feels most urgent is a missed opportunity. History bends around inflection points that demand it change course.

“If we ever want to live in a better world,” wrote Paul Blest for The Outline, “it is crucial to immediately highlight why these disasters are political in order to make sure those who die in mass shootings don’t do so in vain.”

Every response plays an important role in a disaster’s aftermath: that of the President, of congress, of the media, of public figures, of private civilians. Each one is a ripple that makes a wave. Take for instance, the way we report on these events: Do we name the shooter Stephan Paddock a “lone wolf,” thereby refusing to call this a pattern? Do we humanize him by reporting on “what he enjoyed,” or do we call him a terrorist, thereby pointing out the racist hypocrisy of our regulatory inaction? Do we call this “senseless murder,” thereby absolving ourselves from the ominous work of unpacking such an act of violence?

It all matters. When we indulge our feelings of helplessness, when we give too much credit to “the powers that be,” we miss an opportunity to have a say. As individuals, we can watch the fire burn, or we can get angry, call our reps, donate money, get educated, join a movement, find some way, any way, to help. I know these things can feel small — dropping some money in a bucket, signing up for a mailing list, marching down a street, reading up on statistics and policy, pointing out our hypocrisy…but “thoughts and prayers” do far less. Remember these are the little things that bring about big change, and the louder we get, the more congress will have to listen. The harder we fight, the more difficult it will become for representatives to take money from, aid and abet gun lobbyists, and the more difficult it will become to ignore the facts.

I know the cyclical horror of all this makes it feel like nothing changes, but it does. In the wake of 2016’s shooting in Orlando, public push-back made a crack: “Several other Republican senators showed some willingness to accept new restrictions on gun purchases if they could be structured in an acceptable way,” reported the New York Times. “A bipartisan companion measure also was introduced in the House. These are incremental steps, but in the gridlocked world of gun control politics, they count for something.”

It’s okay if you’re new to this; so many of us are. Future generations are depending on us to find a way, endure and do what we can whenever we can. Participation goes a long way, and progress demands it. Below are some ways you can do that today.

Hold your reps accountable

Text “NO MORE” to 30644 and the Human Rights Campaign will connect you directly to your lawmakers office so you can ask what they’re doing to end gun violence.

Check this list to see which of your reps have accepted campaign contributions from the NRA.

Fill out this form on Everytown’s website, an organization dedicated to finding solutions to end gun violence, and they’ll tell you who your reps are and what to say to them.

Here is a detailed explainer from Bustle on how to frame these calls.


Text “ACT” to 64433 and Everytown will send you periodic updates on what you can do locally to end gun violence.
Join a local chapter of the Brady Campaign.
Sign up for the Newton Action newsletter to learn about events near you.

Donate and sign petitions

GoFundMe for victims of the Las Vegas shooting
Everytown for Gun Safety
The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence
Americans for Responsible Solutions
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
States United to Prevent Gun Violence
Newton Action Alliance
Hardest Hit Family Relief Fund’s page for families of Texas victims
GoFundMe for Sutherland Spring’s First Baptist Church

Educate yourself

Read “Gun Violence in America, Explained in 17 Maps and Charts” from Vox
Read “Preventing Mass Shootings Like the Vegas Strip Attack” from the Times
Explore this Gun Law Navigator Tool from Everytown, to understand gaps in policy and trends over time

Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images.

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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