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Read the speech: Brian Lothridge at “March For Our Lives” in Wellsville

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Brian Lothridge is a writer, peacemaker, healthcare justice advocate, and wannabe musician. He is ordained in the United Methodist Church and seeks to build a world filled with compassion and justice.

When gun violence tragedies happen, there is always this chorus that goes, “Don’t politicize this. Now is not the time to talk about gun control. Let the community grieve.” 

I was 14 when the Columbine tragedy happened in 1999. I was shocked that something like this could happen in a school. It was enough to give me pause, but it didn’t seem like this was a new reality. This was an anomaly. Steps would be taken to ensure this wouldn’t happen again.

Then the chorus sang, “Don’t politicize this. Now is not the time to talk about gun control. Let the community grieve.” 

A few years later, I was a year out of college when Virginia Tech happened. I wondered if this could happen at my alma mater, where I still had friends. Surely steps would be taken to ensure this wouldn’t happen again.

Then the chorus sang, “Don’t politicize this. Now is not the time to talk about gun control. Let the community grieve.” 

Then Sandy Hook happened a few years later. By this time, my son is in elementary school. I watched in horror as the news unfolded. Could this happen in my son’s school? I felt sick to my stomach. But I hoped steps would be taken to ensure this wouldn’t happen again.

Then the chorus sang, “Don’t politicize this. Now is not the time to talk about gun control. Let the community grieve.” 

Then Parkland happened. My son was in middle school. Again, I’m worried, on top of all the other worries that parents face, that my kid isn’t safe in school. Parents trust schools to protect their children. How could something like this happen? Certainly this time, steps would be taken to ensure this wouldn’t happen again.

Then the chorus sang, “Don’t politicize this. Now is not the time to talk about gun control. Let the community grieve.” 

Here we are just days after the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, pleading for change. The chorus is loudly singing, “Don’t politicize this. Now is not the time to talk about gun control. Let the community grieve.” 

Fine. But can we talk about Parkland yet? Or is it still too soon?

Can we talk about Sandy Hook yet? Or is 10 years still not enough time?

Can we talk about Columbine yet? That was 23 years ago. Is that enough time?

Being a millennial who was in high school during Columbine, I figured we’d be the generation to stop this. We haven’t yet. However, all of us, no matter the generation, better partner with Gen Z because they will stop this. We need to do all we can to support them and lift up their voices. 

It was good that we came out here today. We need the signs, the marching, the slogans, the stories. We need to lament. We need to mourn. We need to rage. We need to come together. But it can’t end here. If this is all we did, then we haven’t completed our task. 

You are all here today because you have been motivated by what gun violence has done to us. We may even consider ourselves activists for doing so. But we are only halfway there. An activist is active. An activist works for change. 

Here are some ways you can continue the work of activism and help build a better world. 

Register to vote: NYS DMV, County Board of Elections, super simple, super quick. We need to elect representatives who will stand up against the gun lobby and make changes that make all of us safer. We need common-sense gun laws. The lawmakers can make them happen, but we have to ensure they’re in a position to do so. We elect them to make a change. But they can’t make a change if we don’t vote. MarchForOurLives.com, NY.GOV. Register. VOTE. State elections, federal elections, local elections. 

Make your voice heard. Our elected officials represent us. But they can’t represent us if they don’t hear from us. Email your lawmakers. Call their offices to express your opinions. Form a group and schedule a meeting with them or their staff. 

Write a letter to the editor. People read these. Politicians know when their name is in print, whether it’s good or bad press. Call lawmakers to task. Tell them specifically what you want them to do. I’d be happy to help! 

Join organizations like March For Our Lives, SandyHookPromise, Everytown For Gun Safety. Donate to them. Volunteer with them. Text/phonebank, share their posts on social media.

Love one another well. We all belong to each other. Check-in on one another. Grieve together. Work together. Hold space for one another. 

Friends, a better world is possible. But we have to work for it.

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