By JAMILA RIZVI
Dear President Obama,
27 people are dead. And 20 of them are children.
You need to politicise this tragedy please. And you need to politicise it today.
When asked about the possibility of gun ownership reform on Friday, your press secretary said: “There is, I am sure, will be, rather, a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I do not think today is that day.”
Respectfully Mr President, that is wrong. Today is EXACTLY the right time to be talking about gun control.
Why? Because those who died on Friday didn’t give their lives for anything, Mr President.
They had their lives taken from them.
They didn’t choose to die. They didn’t walk boldly into harms way for some great cause, to defend their country, to fight for a better life, to free others from oppression.
When you’re five-years-old you and you haven’t even had the chance to ask a grown up what ‘death’ means yet, you can’t give your life for anything. When you haven’t heard of the 2nd amendment and you don’t know about the so-called ‘right’ to bear arms and you don’t realise that ‘rights’ even exist… you can’t give your life for anything.
When yours is a world where mum, dad and teacher’s word is law and where the best thing that can happen is the sound of a Mr Whippy van playing Greensleeves and the worst, is tripping in the playground and scraping your knee… you can’t give your life for anything.
When you’re only five-years-old, like some of the children whose lives were brutally cut short today, you’re not cognitively capable of knowing whether or not you would want your death to be used as impetus for change or reform.
So you, Mr President, have to do that for them.
Because those children are dead. And we cannot bring them back. No matter how much we hope and pray that wishing could make it so. But we can honour their memory by making sure that more of their peers do not die in the same way.
You lead a country where it is incredibly difficult to gain traction in the community for reform on gun control. Studies show that even in towns and cities where massacres like this one take place, very few people shift their views as a result.
And that is why you have to act today, to get the traction you need from this tragedy to lead the charge for reform and to stop such senseless killing, with legally purchased weapons, from ever happening again.
This is politically scary. This is a risk. This will be incredibly difficult and you will face tremendous opposition and legal hurdles. You are just starting your second term in office and you must have meteoric hopes and dreams for what good you can do for your country in the four years ahead.
A fight on gun control was not part of that plan and politically, this fight will probably mean relinquishing possible gains in some of the others. It will mean giving up political capital, which could have been used to educate, to heal, to fight, to build and to improve lives.
But Mr President, it will be worth it. Because what could be more important that preventing the senseless and tragic murder of children?
Too many times in the hours since the shooting took place, we’ve heard the phrase ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ bandied about. A statement used to end an argument, to cut it short, to use logic to shut down those who advocate for stricter gun control.
But Mr President, the world needs you to tell those who say that ‘people kill people’ – and tell them with that giant megaphone to which you, and you alone, have access to – that they are wrong.
Hand guns killed 144 people in Canada last year. They killed 58 people in Sweden. They killed 47 in Japan and 59 in Australia. Hand guns killed 9,369 people in the United States last year. And I’m sorry sir, but that happened on your watch.
Only one month ago, along with thousands in the United States and around the world, I teared up as I watched you take the stage to claim victory and promise that you would use your second term to change the fabric of American society.
Mr President, this is how you do that.
Please deliver on the ‘change’ that you made us all believe in and that you pledged to bring to your country and the world. Because right now 20 children are dead and I’m struggling to believe in very much at all.