This piece was written by Moms Demand Action volunteer Kelsey Burkemper.
I was a junior in high school when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris walked into Columbine and shot 13 people to death. I—like most of us, I think—was horrified by that tragedy, but considered it an outlier. The desperate act of two uniquely disturbed kids.
Thirteen years later, after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, I joined the entire country in shock and mourning of what we all previously considered the “unthinkable.” If mass shooting after mass shooting in the intervening years hadn’t made it clear that I was wrong to consider Columbine a one-off, Sandy Hook set it in stone. However, despite this clarity and my true outrage at laws and leadership that look the other way, my activism against gun violence started and stopped at a couple reactive posts on Facebook and the occasional guilt-ridden donation.
And then a few months ago, a 19-year old walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas with an AR-15 and added 17 more kids to the never-ending death toll. And as I watched an entire generation of sometimes-literally wounded teenagers rise up to fight against the impossibly powerful faction that enforces our nation’s deadly status quo around guns, I finally stood up too.
So, why this time? What changed between Sandy Hook and Parkland? The difference for me is that in 2012, I wasn’t a mother. In 2018, I am—and I will always be ashamed that it was only when I had the most selfish of motivations that I took meaningful action to make the world a better, fairer and safer place.
As a new member of Moms Demand Action, I’m in touch with my elected representatives in Missouri and Washington D.C. to let them know where I stand on gun laws and that I’m paying attention to what they are (and often aren’t) doing. I’m badgering everyone I know about registering to vote. I’m dispelling myths about what this movement is really after and looking for common ground by having awkward conversations with people in my life on the other side of the issue. I’m supporting gun sense candidates like Mark Osmack who are fighting to unseat elected officials beholden to the NRA. And come this November, I’m going to do the most important thing of all. I’m going to vote. And I’m going to keep voting until every one of them is out of office.
Everyone who dies from gun violence in this country is somebody’s child. That’s always been true. I can’t change that it took me becoming a mother to finally care enough to do something about it, but I hope for my child and for everyone else’s that we all realize how vulnerable our current gun laws make each and every one of us every single day. We can do better, and we must. Not just for our kids, but for all of us.