This is a family time of year, when many families come together and enjoy love, comfort and tradition. But we cannot embrace the joy of family this year without feeling a small portion of the immeasurable pain of the families in Newtown, CT – or the enormous agony that is felt on a regular, tragically recurring basis by many families in our own neighborhoods in Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Providence whose loved ones are killed in gun-related violence.
Which leads me to conclude: It is time for gun control.
Which in turn leads to the logical question: why would this environmentalist take such a position? Here’s why I think environmentalists should:
Traditional environmentalists are not in the business of understanding the complexities of gun control and violence in America, although many of our environmental justice partners have long recognized this issue.
However, we are in the business of promoting healthy, vibrant and safe communities; it is a core principle of Conservation Law Foundation’s mission to protect New England’s environment for the benefit all people. And we certainly are part of a larger family of mission-driven organizations that are not afraid to say what is wrong and to stand up for what is right.
Just as it is wrong to have too much carbon in our air, too much nitrogen and phosphorus in our waters, too few fish in our oceans, and too many miles between where our food is grown and where we eat it, it is wrong to have too many guns on the streets and in our homes. These wrongs we can help to make right. And we must speak in favor of those who strive to make right other wrongs, such as gun violence.
30,000 Americans die from firearms each year. The uncontrolled burning of coal kills about the same number every year. And traffic-related deaths claim that number again, while we continue to drive too many miles and public transit ekes by on fewer public dollars than it needs.
What is wrong with this picture? One thing is that powerful, vested interests have distorted the public discussion about each of these issues, making it impossible even to have a rational conversation about what is truly in the public good.
Just as gun control advocates struggle with the gun lobby to have a rational conversation about gun violence, environmentalists struggle with the fossil fuel lobby to have a rational conversation about national energy policy.
That our collective craving to protect our children may actually break through the pathological gridlock in Washington in pursuit of the greater public good – especially for the benefit of those least able to defend themselves – is a great reason for environmentalists – and all who desire to “bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice,” to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – to support gun control, right now.