I've never spoken publicly about guns before. Even though there have been many mass shootings in America, I've always remained silent on this issue.
Why? I guess I always believed that deep in the conscience of our lawmakers, something would click one day, and they would come to the realization that something needs to be done about guns.
But now after watching what amounts to political pomp in recent days, I have to say something.
Over five hundred people were shot. Let that sink in. Let it marinate. OVER FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE were shot in less than 15 minutes. So many lives were lost and other lives were changed irreparably and forever.
Why isn't our Congress listening to the pleas of the people begging them to act on gun control? Regardless of whatever you choose to believe, the facts are plain and obvious: this kind of firepower should not be legal on the streets of America.
We all know this. It's common sense!
The entire country is in a precarious situation right now. Both literal and proverbial shots have been fired, and these bullets are ripping through the fabric of our democracy.
What does it mean when America is too weak to do what's necessary to save the lives of its citizens?
Other countries have taken massive leaps and bounds to do what they can to stamp out the blight of gun murder. The UK and Australia took drastic steps and measures to protect the lives of their citizens from increasing gun violence. Since 1996, the UK has only had one mass shooting. Australia hasn't had a mass shooting in 21 years.
So why can't America get it together when it comes to gun control?
Why won't we realize that there's nothing more important than us? You, me, our families, our neighbors, our fellow citizens in this country. We are the most important part of this nation; and we are allowing ourselves to be victims because we have yet to make our voices so loud that our political leaders can no longer ignore us.
What will it take? Will we have to witness a murder before our very eyes before we come to a general consensus on gun control?
I can't do that. I don't want to do that. I don't want to see another person lose their life needlessly.
I'm ready for change, and I know that there are so many others out there that are ready for change too. But if we sit back and just wait on change, we will never get anywhere.
I watched as Congressman John Lewis addressed America's gun culture. As he asked, "How many more must die?"
I'm always emboldened by the Congressman's leadership; and I've always recited his words to as many people as I can, because I truly believe that this is how we make change happen. As he's said so many times, when you see injustices in your community, you must stand up, speak up and speak out. Make some necessary noise for change.
Necessary noise. That's what we need right now. We need every citizen in this country whose life has ever been touched by any aspect of gun violence: We need you to take the reigns and make noise. Wake the people up!
Don't let anyone go through what you went through. I'm starting to become convinced that the American public has seen so much bloodshed and carnage through mass shootings such as Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, San Bernardino and the Pulse nightclub, that we are numb to it now.
We need you to wake us all up. Let us know what it feels like. I know you are in pain, but for anything to change, you must be willing to share this pain with the world, and make us feel what you feel.
We as citizens must be willing to empathize with our fellow Americans. For example, the devastation in Puerto Rico: There are people there that are still struggling for a semblance of aid weeks after the hurricane has passed.
The only reason they have not been helped yet, is because there is a lack of empathy in our society, and it stems from the top down. It starts with our president, and extends down to all citizens.
How can we stand as leaders before the world to show them a better way through democracy and freedom, if our citizens are suffering?
Americans are suffering.
This is personal for me, as most of my columns are. I have a godmother whose family is currently in Puerto Rico suffering. They are not receiving the level of care that Americans should expect.
Again, this is because of our lack of empathy. Maybe you don't have family and friends who reside in Puerto Rico; but you've seen the images of the devastation.
You've seen the effects of lead poisoning on the residents of the city of Flint, Michigan; and you saw the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
We've seen our fellow citizens go through so much pain and suffering; but we've always been there with the light of hope and help to illuminate their lives. Until now.
I've said this before, but it seems that I'm always repeating myself. (I don't mind. I'll repeat myself as many times as I have to, if that's what it takes to create change.)
The direction that we decide to take right now as a country will either save lives, or take them.
It's that simple. American streets should never be a war zone. American states and territories should never be comparable to 3rd world countries.
If we want to keep America great, then we have to continue to show empathy and concern for our citizens. We have to continue to engage our political leaders and make noise. We have to tell them that we are not okay with what we see.
Let's send our politicians a message; and if they are not willing to create the change that we demand, then we will create the change at the next ballot box.