It will take all of us to push the Senate to listen to the majority on gun matters

Mike Stocker/AP

Last Monday, we learned of 10 shootings over the weekend in which more than four people were killed or injured.

It’s hard to say whether that was an extraordinary weekend, or just more than the usual amount of media coverage of our commonplace carnage.

It was the same Monday that the Proud Boys were indicted for seditious conspiracy, including assembling quite an arsenal for their “quick reaction force” to stop the peaceful transfer of power to an elected U. S. president on Jan. 6, 2020. We wonder how many military assault rifles they had in stock.

It was also a Monday when parents in Uvalde, Texas were burying their children, many of whom were murdered with a weapon so destructive their bodies had to be identified by matching it with their parents’ DNA.

“It is impossible to understand at all,” said Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine. “This is a tragedy. And we live in a terrible time when Americans express condolences to Ukrainians over the deaths in war. And Ukrainians express condolences to Americans over the deaths in peace.”

School shootings have been so numerous that Frank DeAngelis, the former principal of Columbine High School, started the Principals Recovery Network, an association of 22 of his peers who’ve experienced them. They offer support and advice to principals who have joined their ranks. They are writing a manual for those who will follow them. That’s a very sad good idea.

School shootings also have led to calls for very sad stupid ideas, like arming teachers or publishing photos of murdered children.

On Saturday, there were March for Our Lives events all over the country and here in Olympia to call for reform of national gun laws, including banning or age-restricting military assault weapons, universal background checks, and a national red flag law.

Strong citizen majorities support these ideas, but our nation’s Senate doesn’t reflect the will of the people. If they fail to act, or pass only a token measure, it will be hard not to fall into an abyss of fear that our democracy is disintegrating before our eyes.

Even many of our best political leaders are powerless in a Senate that is undemocratic by design, and made more so by its reluctance to change its own rules.

At moments like this, we wish our nation had what our state has: the ability to pass initiatives from the people. Washington voters have passed three of them related to guns: expanded background checks, a red flag law, and age and other limitations on buying semi-automatic assault rifles.

We’ve also elected legislative majorities that have passed more laws, including a prohibition on high-capacity magazines, and establishment of an Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention. Our state also funds community violence prevention and intervention programs.

But many Washington voters are frustrated about what we can do at the national level. Both of our Senators — Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell — are already in favor of gun control legislation. Both are also supportive of more investment in mental health care, school counselors, and anti-racist and anti-poverty measures that would reduce the conditions that promote violence.

Will marching matter? We hope so, but we’ve done it before, after the Parkland, Florida school shootings, and the carnage hasn’t stopped.

It may help to reach outside our own state. Some people send postcards to voters in other states to urge them to support candidates who could strengthen the ranks of gun legislation advocates. There is evidence that such measures are effective at improving voter turnout.

Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

But in this grisly situation we think it will take a much larger group — millions and millions of thoughtful, committed citizens who never give up — to stop our epidemic of gun violence and address all its underlying causes.