Pay attention to this.
Do not pay attention to lawmakers and other public officials who tell you now is not the time to discuss what to do about gun violence in America, what to do about changing gun laws to protect Americans. The horrible, bloody, heartbreaking aftermath is exactly the right time to focus on these things -- and act.
By all means, let's stop talking about the gunman and his sick motive and instead, play a loop of Chris Mintz, the 30-year-old vet who was in his first week of classes -- shot repeatedly as he charged the gunman to save others. "It's my son's birthday, it's my son's birthday" he repeated as he bled on the floor.
Chris lived, miraculously, but his 6-year-old son, Tyrik has become a member of the club no one wants to join -- the survivors of gun violence. It's a tragically big club: Over 32,000 people were killed in the United States in 2011, the most recent year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has data. Let's talk about Chris, and the other victims. And let's not stop there.
The Nation Rifle Association and the legislators that enable it would have you believe that gun control is an assault on the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They are wrong: the lack of sensible gun control is an assault on our forefathers. The Second Amendment uses two important words in describing the right to bear arms: "well regulated." It says: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
Had the Founding Fathers' anticipated that we would need that well-regulated militia to fight deranged gunmen killing our kids, I suspect they would have worded the amendment with greater care. But even in 1791, they recognized that their citizen militia needed to be regulated.
At the moment, it is not. Through the power and unrelenting lobbying pressure of the NRA -- and through our own apathy -- we now have nearly unregulated gun ownership.
We can do something about this: Gun laws are primed for a vast and sweeping social change movement in America. It's happened with gay marriage: the collective rights of society trumped the discriminatory rights of individuals. It's time that happens with gun laws.
My CNN colleague, Brooke Baldwin, sat down with 40 remarkable people who had lost loved ones to gun violence and she learned the biggest misconception about gun control advocates: that they want to get rid of guns. Wrong. A third of the people in this room of gun violence survivors were also gun owners.
Guns -- the most-deadly consumer product in America -- are the only consumer product not regulated by federal consumer safety laws
. And as of this year they killed more young people
than the number that died in cars from crashes.
These 40 survivors want you to know that gun violence can destroy your family. It does not discriminate. If we continue to do nothing, you might be the next one to get "the call." In America, kindergarteners are murdered, even when they are in what we would consider the safety of an elementary school. A little over a month ago, a reporter was executed on live television.
What is there to stop someone from killing you with a gun at a church or a movie theater?
Here are some testimonials from Brooke Baldwin's "town hall":
-- Clai Lasher-Sommers was shot in the back by her abusive stepfather at the age of 13. She told CNN:
"Nobody is safe from this. I don't care who you are or where you stand. Nobody is safe from this. And until we stand up and ask and demand that people start acting with some sort of morality and change some legislation, what is going on?"
-- Andy Parker's daughter, Alison, was shot and killed in Virginia on live television. When the media showed an image of the gun being fired right at his daughter, people were upset and complained that it was death porn. I called it the reality of gun violence. Andy Parker has had to face this reality every single day and it's why he's now on a mission to change the laws. He told CNN:
"I'm going to do whatever it takes, if I have to shame these people. I mean the time has come to stop this insanity."
Rev. Sharon Risher lost her mother and two cousins at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. She told CNN:
"We don't want to talk about it, because it's the hard subject. Well, it's time to talk about all of the hard things..."
Colin Goddard was shot during the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, where 32 students, faculty and staff were killed. He told CNN:
"There is no one law or one idea or one -- one change that's going to change it all and save every life, right?
"We have to look at what can we do as a country to do the greatest good in reducing the gun deaths and injuries every single day?
"When we think of it that way, the big picture, we think of how do we stop a dangerous person and a gun from coming together in the first place to -- to cause...so much harm.. a moment when that gun is sold and transfers is the moment to intervene and make sure that person does not have a record. And the way we do that is with a 90 second background check.
"It is the most commonly done thing, but it's not done for all gun sales. I think most people in America think we already do this on all gun sales and are frankly shocked to learn this is not something that's standard."
Two officials said
that after the shooting, the gunman's family told investigators that he suffered from mental health issues and had sought treatment. And indeed I used to think that mental health laws were the more important place to start. But I've changed my mind. And so have many of you.
The President reminded us Thursday
that "we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months."
Anyone who commits gun violence has a depraved heart, and changes to mental health laws are part of the solution. So are background checks, closing gun show loopholes and empowering the police to ask about and seize weapons during wellness checks and domestic violence calls.
Without a sensible and comprehensive approach to all the "loopholes,"guns will remain the deadliest consumer product in America. "Well regulated" means exactly that.
Without this, you or I or someone we love very much could end up in the club no one wants to join.