I grew up with my grandfather’s rifle hanging over the toy box in my grandparent’s play room. My fear of what grandpa would do to me if I touched it far outweighed my curiosity about it. All my cousins felt that way. When our family would come together at the lake, grandpa would gingerly take the gun down and the uncles would assemble their arsenal in the lower garden. It was time to learn. We learned to hold each gun, load each gun, and shoot each gun. I remember being 9 or 10 when my uncle Curt screamed at someone for standing in front of a loaded weapon. I was the closest kid within reach so he grabbed me and had me lay next to him in the grass as he shot through a full pop can. I watched it explode before he looked at me tenderly, yet sternly, and said, “imagine if that was your head.”

As a woman, a mother, a politico, a feminist, a school board member, a community member, a daughter, a sister, and general human being, I have my own unique perspective and opinions about guns and gun violence. I don’t want to discuss what qualifications should be met for someone to legally own a gun or what types of guns or amounts of ammunition should be allowed on the market. If I did discuss those issues right now I’d be doing nothing but adding to the divisive and polarizing noise currently overwhelming us all.

I do believe that when women speak, we are heard, and change is made. Right now, as our children are under attack and those we currently send to Washington and our state capitols do nothing to protect us, I hope you hear my rally cry: RUN FOR OFFICE. I have been fortunate to manage campaigns for brilliant women who are now making real change as political leaders in their communities. I have seen the impact we have when we join forces to achieve a common goal. While we are taught that all people are equal, I want to challenge that idea. Because I do think as women we are different. I think we have a fire that burns inside us that frightens the status quo. We have a fierce nature that creates and grows life. We can withstand physical and emotional pain that mere words cannot describe. We are braver than the status quo wants to admit. When we lose we get up, dust ourselves off, and fight again.

When women run, women vote, and women win. But what does running for office really accomplish, you ask? It allows us to be the change makers on the front lines. On average a woman needs to be asked to run for office seven times before they consider it, compared to a man requiring one ask. Even if you run against an entrenched incumbent with an army of supporters you are making change by bringing attention to your platform issues. You are also sending a message that there is a group of voters in that district/state that is upset with the status quo that will devote time, energy, and money to making change. This can be very unnerving to incumbents. Women enter into races with deep fears of being a failure because of losing an election. Running itself is a win. Every time a woman runs there is a little girl that is inspired, an incumbent receives the message that we demand to control our own narrative, and we take one giant step towards laws that will actually protect our children. Weeks before the Florida school shooting the governor admitted on camera that he did not have an active shooter plan when asked. Chew on that for a minute.    

46 children and teens are shot everyday. 315 adults are victims of gun violence everyday (www.bradycampaign.org). The United States is the most dangerous country in the developed world for women when it comes to gun violence, leaving us 16 times more likely to be murdered by a domestic partner with a gun (everytownresearch.org). If you are like me, after years of slowly numbing to the truth of gun violence these stats don’t mean a whole lot until you know someone who has been injured or killed by a gun.

Whether you are like me and you actually enjoy shooting recreationally, or if you believe that all guns should be melted down, we can agree that the American approach to guns is flawed. We fall into the talking points Congressional and NRA leaders want us to focus on instead of addressing rational and reasonable solutions. We have limited ourselves to a black and white view of an issue that is very grey. Developed countries around the world have experienced mass shootings, the difference is that they learned from the horror and enacted policies that, to this point, have effectively protected their citizens. We need leaders that are brave enough to tackle this issue head on until our children can once again be safe in their schools, movie theaters, and concerts.

Sisters, I say to you – be angry, be motivated, and be intentional in all that you do. Take trainings, reach out to experts, find a race, and run it. We must take back our communities and reclaim our power. We give life and now we must protect it. I won’t tell you that I have the perfect policy solution in mind right now, but I feel it in my soul that this is a problem that needs a woman’s touch.  

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Author: Avonna Starck