Time is less easily marked in a desert climate. Leaves don't cover the ground in the fall, and snow rarely buries it in the winter. The year is divided into only two main seasons -- most notably summer, when a brutal dry heat sends residents indoors.
But on Jan. 8, 2011, the city of Tucson, Arizona was introduced to a horrifying new way to mark the passage of time, on a day that left an indelible scar, and ushered the city into a new reality defined by "the number of days that have passed since the shooting." For the families of the victims of the shooting there, an incomprehensible act of violence that left six people dead and 13 more wounded outside a Safeway, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, Jan. 8, 2011 is forever the dividing line between their lives before and after. The one year anniversary of the shooting was just one month ago, and two weeks ago, as a result of her injuries from the shooting, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stepped down.
So what does "after" look like? And what is the progress of the crucially important Fix Gun Checks movement sponsored by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition as we enter into 2012, with a recent second shooting at Virginia Tech bringing back only too fresh memories of a massacre there that still haunts a community?
As Tucson survivor Mavy Stoddard, who lost her husband Dorwan Stoddard that day, recalls, "I felt completely lost, like I was in an alien world, and none of this could possibly be happening a mile from my home."
But until we fix our legislation surrounding background checks for purchasing firearms, and update the national database, we are still living in this alien world -- a world where a Safeway supermarket can become a war zone in a matter of seconds.
Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national bi-partisan coalition of over six hundred mayors co-founded by New York's Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Boston's Mayor Thomas M. Menino, feels some progress has been made since the Tucson shooting, though he won't rest until the Fix Gun Checks Act is passed. The mission is simple: respect the rights of responsible law-abiding Americans and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, drug abusers, the mentally ill, and other dangerous people. Update the national database, and close the loopholes surrounding gun sale laws.
Last November, the Senate held a hearing on the bill with testimony from Pat Maisch, one of the Tucson shooting survivors. The bill has 85 sponsors in the House. More than 450,000 Americans have signed a petition urging Congress to fix gun checks -- along with more than 600 mayors of all political stripes.
We also know the public supports the Fix Gun Checks Act. 86 percent of Americans -- and 81 percent of gun owners -- believe every gun buyer should pass an instant background check. We need to make sure Congress understands that Americans want this common-sense reform. It's a simple solution that respects the Second Amendment, has the overwhelming support of gun owners, and would save a lot of lives.
So why hasn't it been passed yet? In the time since the one year anniversary of Tucson, Congress itself has lost a valuable and dedicated member with Gabrielle Giffords' resignation -- the direct result of a senseless and preventable crime committed with an illegal gun.
As Stoddard also states, "When your world ends, as it did when Dorwan died, another one has to begin."
When will our new world begin? When will this country be safe from illegal guns?
What are we waiting for?
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