A new strategy may be emerging to break the logjam on legislation for gun safety. In The Atlantic magazine, senior editor Gal Beckerman proposes students, parents, and teachers take “the next three months to mobilize” a national strike when school starts again demanding gun safety laws. During the summer vacation, “they could create thousands of local committees supporting the strike and decide on what the national demand might be—say, an assault-weapon ban.”
Beckerman points to the student movement after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Parkland students “built one of the most forceful movements around gun control to date…They also helped persuade Florida’s governor to sign a bill that raised the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days.”
Many unions were quick to denounce the shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers. American Federation of Teacher’s President Randi Weingarten, whose union has lost many members to gun violence, exclaimed, “Gun violence is cancer, and it’s one that none of us should tolerate for one single moment longer…We have made a choice to let this continue, and we can make a choice to finally do something—do anything—to put a stop to this madness.”
Like most Americans, I am sickened by these school shootings as well as those in theaters, houses of worship and other public places. I agree with Weingarten that we can no longer tolerate this madness. But a national teachers’ strike is a big ask of public servants whose salaries do not often afford them the ability to build large bank accounts in reserve. Therefore, a fund to support striking teachers that many of us could support should be developed as soon as the organizing begins. (Note: This idea came from Margaret Lubalin, my editor/partner.)
With the help of the AFT and other unions, an extended national strike could be very effective. Hopefully, it would force Congress and state legislatures to act. With most Republicans opposing meaningful gun safety measures, it could also have a defining impact on some contested electoral races this November.
As momentum builds, the strike could be expanded to other issues as well. Whether it’s gun safety, abortion rights, voting rights or saving democracy itself, our country is at a dangerous stalemate. And let’s not forget the COVID pandemic and global warming.
Our nation is deeply divided on all these critical issues and at a loss as to what to do. Republicans blame the Democrats who control the government. They say elect them to run the country but have offered no sound solutions. Just recriminations and name-calling. They are obsessed with power and control. To them, their way is the only acceptable way. Democrats rightly respond that Republicans just obstruct any real effort to fix our problems.
The state of American politics is demoralizing and depressing. We once were better than this. A national strike for gun safety would be a big step forward toward bringing Americans of all persuasions together (over 90% want expanded background checks) and making our country a healthier, safer place to live. The question is can we muster the strength and the will to overcome the gun lobby and its allies and find our way back to a more civil society before it’s too late. Therein lies the struggle for the Soul of America.
Bruce Berlin, J.D.
A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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