Dear members of Congress,
Do you remember your first?
I do. I was in eighth grade. Not even 13 years old. I was confused, scared, angry... I didn't know how to process it.
were meetings about what happened, trying to help us make sense of it
all. Attempting to quell the brewing fear that what happened at a high
school in Colorado could happen anywhere. There was so much blame then,
so much confusion. I remember things like the "trenchcoat mafia" or
"violence in video games." I remember talk of bullying and targeting
people because they were different. I remember the layout of our school
library changing because the cubicles resembled the ones at Columbine.
I'll never forget my first.
I am now nearly 32 years
old and mass shootings have become routine. They have become a regular
occurrence in American life and they are all starting to look so similar
that when they actually happen there's a pattern. It doesn't matter if
it's some mentally disturbed individual, a disgruntled individual or an
Islamic State sympathizer - they all fit a pattern.
am a son. I am a brother. I am a husband. I am a father. I am a proud
American. I do not hide being an independent voter of a liberal and
pragmatic mindset. I believe in what America is supposed to stand for. I
believe in a lofty ideal that America can be a place for everyone. I
want to believe that we can come together as one and find common ground,
rather than being afraid of things and feelings we don't understand.
do you know about fear? I'm sure many of you have experienced it in
some form or another. I lead what can be classified as a decent - even
privileged - life, but let me tell you about my fear.
Every time I
go to the movies, I look for an escape route. Every time my wife leaves
in the morning for her job as a school social worker, I worry if that's
the day someone opens fire. I have three small children who are growing
up too fast - I'm sure you can relate -and soon I will have to worry
about leaving them at school, hoping no one brings a gun. I work for a
high-profile entertainment company that has been the subject of threats
before, and I openly talk with co-workers about how we'd handle a
shooter situation - especially since some of us are in the line of fire
through a glass door. Is that a bit cynical? Sure, but this is the
society that you have helped foster. These days I have to fear for all
my friends, acquaintances and loved ones no matter where they are
because someone might start shooting.
I create comic
books as a hobby, passion and moonlighting job. Our community is tight,
our fans are passionate, and sometimes those fans get upset over
storylines and send death threats to creators over social media. America
is allowing a culture where now I fear it's only a matter of time
before there's an incident at a comic convention or some other event -
much like the tragedy that befell "The Voice" contestant Christina
Some folks will pound their chests about their
misinterpretation of the Second Amendment and carrying a firearm. They
often claim that when the shooting starts, somehow in the chaos and
confusion they will be left standing. Or that their pistols and
"quick-thinking" will somehow overcome a determined killer often
wielding an assault rifle. Open-carry supporters somehow think that
carrying an assault rifle of their own will stop a gunman in his tracks,
but they never stop to consider collateral damage or for some, the
military training required to assess that type of combat scenario.
will say to me "carry a gun." And to that I simply say, "I shouldn't
have to." Some say, "you don't understand gun safety." Actually, I do,
but I still don't think civilians should have access to certain types of
guns. I shouldn't have to worry about going to see a
movie, going to work or sending my family to school because someone
decides it's time to start shooting.
I have many friends in the
military; of course I worry for their safety in combat and at war - that
comes with the territory. But me, my wife, my children, my co-workers
... we are not in combat or at war. No one's right to own a gun should
trump another person's right to live their life and feel safe at home or
work or in any other public place.
I understand some
of my fellow Americans' desire to own firearms. There are many hunters
and sportsmen in my family. I have friends that do actually appreciate
the machinery of firearms. Although I did not serve, I am a supporter of
the military and a writer of military fiction - I research these
weapons heavily - I can appreciate many of these feelings and passions. I
also understand the havoc which they are capable of bringing. With that
in mind, I understand that in order for anything to really be
accomplished, compromises must be made.
Yet when twenty
children under the age of 10 were massacred by a high-powered,
military-grade rifle less than an hour from my home, I thought our
leaders would be so appalled that we'd see some kind of reform. Alas,
nothing. No laws passed. Reform was barely considered. Children were
ferociously gunned down in an elementary school - ripped apart by 154
bullets in 5 minutes - and the Congress of the United States of America
did nothing about it.
You went on your recesses, you
collected your lobby money and you failed in your solemn charge to fight
for the American people. Many Republicans bent to the will of the NRA,
choosing to protect them over the very people you are meant to serve.
That's why when many of you offer thoughts and prayers, I cheer for
journalist Igor Volsky as he tweets how much money the NRA gives you.
When Timothy McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma City federal
building, he made a bomb out of fertilizer. The government now tracks
fertilizer purchases and you cannot park close to a federal building.
When the 9/11 hijackers used boxcutters to take over the planes, the
government banned boxcutters on flights. Shortly thereafter, we all
started taking our shoes off at the airport, you cannot go to the gate
without a ticket, and you cannot take liquids on a plane. But when a
gunman murders innocent men, women and children, you do nothing.
You offer thoughts and prayers and moments of silence... Silence. You offer silence. No compromises, no solutions. Silence.
I stand with my Congressman Jim Himes in condemning your silence and demanding your action.
even one American life is at risk because of someone obtaining an AR-15-styled rifle
- or whatever firearm - and using that weapon, then it's your job to
find ways to prevent that. If it means limiting the types of firearms
someone can own; Limit them. If that means adding extra layers to
ownership and background checks; add them. If that means tougher
restrictions on who can own a firearm; restrict them. If it means
banning weapons considered "military-grade" or
"assault rifles"; Ban them. It may be meaningless in the long run, but
it will show a numb and bullet-ridden American populous you're doing
What are you going to do to prevent someone
like the Orlando shooter - who had previously been investigated by the
FBI - from obtaining firearms like the AR-15-styled weapons, or any firearm? Republicans did not pass a
bill after the shooting in San Bernardino that could have prevented
this. The blood is on your hands.
What are you going to do to
prevent mentally disturbed people like the Newtown shooter from
obtaining or being near firearms? What are you going to do to help curb
the violence in cities like Chicago? What are you going to do to prevent
young rising stars like Christina Grimmie from being shot at an
autograph signing? What are you going to do? We've been asking this for a
long time. Are you still going to be complacent in these murders? Are
you still going to idly stand by as these acts of terrorism take place?
a second issue being drowned out in the calls for gun control. This
nation has a long history of marginalizing entire groups of people.
There's nothing more un-American, yet its part of our DNA. The shooting
in Orlando occurred at a gay nightclub. As we've learned and the FBI has
confirmed, the shooter was not an agent of the Islamic State, it's not
even clear he was a serious sympathizer, but many of you still jumped on
that narrative to deflect your own complacency. The Islamic State of
course claimed responsibility; anyone who does five minutes of research
understands the propaganda value of such a claim. Furthermore,
Republicans have flagrantly allowed their presumptive candidate for
President to openly suggest the sitting President is somehow tied to the
shooting or an ISIS sympathizer himself. But none of that has panned
out, and you - especially Republicans - are now faced with standing with
and for a group of people whose rights who have so vehemently tried to
Republican treatment of the LGBT community has
paved the way for this kind of attack. Instead of equal American
citizens, you treat the LGBT as second class. You've tried to deny their
basic rights to love and marry one another, their rights to have
children together, their rights to shop wherever they want, their rights
to donate blood to help their fellow citizens and most recently, where
they can use the bathroom.
Now 49 people are dead
because a homophobic man was fed by the fear and bigotry you have helped
cultivate. There are reports that the shooter was possibly gay
himself, so perhaps his new status as a second-class citizen in the eyes
of many American lawmakers - especially in Florida - was unacceptable
to him. Perhaps he decided blame others like him and to take it out on
unsuspecting people who were simply dancing and enjoying their lives. It
seems he was a troubled man, it's possible he felt second-class himself
and he was looking for acceptance among the LGBT community, thinking he
may have had something in common. We may never know, the point is
Republicans especially do not treat the voting, tax-paying LGBT
community as equals. I have many friends who identify with this
community, they are my equals. They are my brothers, they are my
sisters, they are my fellow Americans.
Why? Why do we
have to treat any American as a second-class citizen? If it's not the
African-American or Latino communities, then it's women. If it's not
women, then it's the LGBT community. Is it religion? It shouldn't be,
the First Amendment doesn't allow you to make laws respecting an
establishment of religion. I know them all well but I personally don't
follow a religion. That is by my own choice. As an American, I prefer
the law of this land to be determined in-line with our Constitution, not
some politician's stubborn religious beliefs.
And if it
isn't the LGBT community, it's the Muslim community. I can't imagine
what it's like to be Muslim in America. Being forced to face hatred and
bigotry because a very small percentage of people bastardize your
religion is wrong. Seeing as how the Orlando shooter was a Muslim, it's
plausible that based on Republican rhetoric, he viewed himself as even
less than second-class. But many Americans, especially Republican, fear
what they can't comprehend. Fear what they refuse to learn about or
understand. Many follow what their leaders in Congress convey and what
their presumptive nominee openly targets in a fashion that resembles the
way Hitler went after the Jewish.
When are we going to understand
each other as the diverse Americans we are and always have been,
instead of fearing and hating each other for being different?
That leaves me with only one question... who are we?
father's father passed away when I was 10. I didn't know much about his
life other than his devout Catholicism, his love of family, his
Pittsburgh soul and his unrelenting passion for his alma mater - The
University of Notre Dame. I’ve learned more about this son of Irish
immigrants over the years. Stories from his eight children and many
students of whom he was their principal and football coach help fill in
I also know he fought the Nazis. I don't
know many details about his service - according to my father he never
really talked about it - but I do know he played football for Notre Dame
and he gave it up to go to war. What I do know about my grandfather is
that he left his place at an iconic American institution because as he
said, "When your country calls, you answer."
grandfather, like countless other Americans set aside their personal
ambitions, hopes and dreams and left everything behind to do the right
thing. They sacrificed themselves to serve as representatives of this
nation for the good of the country and the world. No questions asked -
they went to go fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves. That
is who we are supposed to be. That is what America is supposed to be
about. That is what you, as our representatives, are supposed to do.
the story of my grandfather is one in which you can relate. Perhaps
it's even similar - a tale of the fabled greatest generation. Many of us
are products of it. There were no cell phones, no Facebook, no Twitter,
no twenty-four hour news cycles to mold and tailor the public's
opinion. There were men and women who did the right thing. It may not
have always been the popular thing, but when the moral fiber of America
was tested, and the world needed America to combat the greatest evil its
ever seen, that generation stood together and charged forward.
moral fiber of America has been tested many times since then. At times
we've made some mistakes and other times we've still managed to do the
right thing... together.
And now here we are again,
faced with the dilemma of our own convictions. Testing our identity and
our commitment to life, liberty, happiness and equality for all. The
American people are waiting. We have been waiting.
I remember my first. I'd like to live to see my last.
Your country is calling, it's time to answer.