Gun Violence and a Preschool Song of Peace

When three and four-year-olds at the preschool I directed sang these words, I was always moved to tears.

Let there be peace on earth
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

In honor of John Lennon who sang, "Imagine all the people living life in peace." He was killed by a mentally ill man who had access to a gun.

In honor of John Lennon who sang, "Imagine all the people living life in peace." He was killed by a mentally ill man who had access to a gun.

This abridged version of the 1955 song “Let There Be Peace on Earth” by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller haunts me as I take in the horrifying details of the latest mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Yesterday, two assailants opened fire at a holiday party in the Inland Regional Center -- a nonprofit, community-based agency serving more than 31,000 individuals with developmental delays. Fourteen people were killed and 17 wounded.

Just last Friday, one police officer and two civilians were killed at a Planned Parenthood clinic shooting in Colorado Springs. In fact, in 2015 to date there have been 355 mass shootings. Check out the calendar in the Washington Post article.  And that doesn’t take into account all of the “routine” gun deaths that take place everyday like the slaughter of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee in Chicago.

Why? According to the Washington Post, the shootings won't stop because,

“Americans own more guns per-capita than people in literally any other country on earth…data from the Congressional Research Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms suggests that there might have been as many as 357 million civilian firearms in circulation in 2013 -- more than one gun for every man, woman and child.”

Gun violence is so common place in America that the Britain’s BBC called it, “Just another day in the United States of America, another day of gunfire, panic, and fear.”

The Declaration of Independence guarantees all Americans the "unalienable" right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  When the second amendment declared in 1791, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” I don’t think that was meant to override what the Declaration of Independence promised. Life? Ask the families of the people slaughtered by gun violence. Liberty? How are we free when we can be killed attending a holiday party? The pursuit of happiness? Ask Tyshawn Lee’s family how happy they are.

Guns are a huge public health issue, much like cigarettes were. And yet the gun industry and the NRA have learned some lessons from the tobacco industry’s demise. You can’t sue gun manufacturers. You can’t tax gun or bullet sales. Congress can’t even pass a bill for mandated background checks. Even after 20 little kids and six teachers were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School almost three years ago, all efforts to beef up gun safety laws failed.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid, called gun violence “a cancer on the nation. He went on to say, "We are better than this. This madness must stop." Perhaps Congress will at least approve funding for federal health officials to study gun violence. But I doubt it.

So as our little ones sing, “Let There be Peace on Earth” at upcoming holiday parties, I hope some sanity will prevail to keep any of them to falling prey to gun violence. I challenge all of those who oppose sensible gun safety legislation to look at their innocent faces, listen to their sweet voices, and then to explain why we can’t guarantee them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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