This Sandy Hook Survivor's Daughter Has A Powerful Message On Gun Control
Ashley Cech knows all about the pain, loss and frustration lax gun control laws are causing in the US. Here, she explains why we need to take action.
The sense of stunned horror and grief that has enveloped the country in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas Sunday is one with which we’ve become maddeningly familiar. Sandy Hook. Charleston. San Bernardino. Orlando. And now Vegas.
Time and again, this country finds itself in a relentless and infuriating place of vulnerability. And in return, we are given “thoughts and prayers” in excess, laid over a stunning void of political leadership.
There is little question at this point that our representatives’ failure to implement meaningful change in our laws continues to foster a culture in which this happens with unprecedented regularity, and Americans have had enough.
Few know this frustration as well as Ashley Cech, the daughter of Sandy Hook School librarian Yvonne Cech, whose actions helped protect the 18 fourth graders under her care during a massacre that took the lives of 20 six and seven-year-olds, as well as six adults.
Now working as a program associate for Everytown For Gun Safety, Ashley recalls the horror of that day and the hours in which she and her family were unable to determine her mother’s status.
“Those couple of hours were incredibly chaotic. It was devastating, trying to piece together what little information we had,” she says. And when she heard news of the shooting in Las Vegas early on Sunday morning via text from a co-worker, that sense of indescribable grief came rushing back.
“For me, understanding the gravity of what was unfolding in Las Vegas meant not only needing to touch base with my mom and my own community in Newtown, but it also meant being there and being present for the survivors and volunteers with whom I'm working every day, who are on the front lines, and who have dedicated their lives to the cause, oftentimes in honor of family and friends who have been taken from them.”
Grief, yes, but for someone with firsthand experience of the devastation an event like this brings, it’s quickly followed by frustration and anger.
Anger, in particular, in response to the Trump administration’s reaction, with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stating the day after the shooting that discussing gun control is “not the place we’re in at this moment.”
“It's really disheartening. It's upsetting to hear when there are many other things that the administration is so quick to react to, that are not nearly as catastrophic as the whole of gun violence in this country,” Cech says. “Now is absolutely the time to talk about this. And actually, we’re too late.”
What’s even more frustrating for gun-control advocates like Cech is that there are real opportunities to move forward that are simply not being acknowledged. “There's this narrative that gets perpetuated—that you’re either pro-gun or you’re anti-gun. But in fact, there is a middle ground.”
Undoubtedly, the conversation surrounding gun control in this country is a complicated one. But at the very least, there seems to be a clear place to start, with significant consensus among Americans: Six different polls conducted in 2016 and 2017 on whether background checks for all gun buyers should be required received at least 84 percent support in every poll, with a Quinnipiac University poll coming in at 94 percent.
More eye-opening still: Even among NRA members, a poll showed that nearly 74 percent were in favor of requiring background checks for all gun sales.
“It's not something that should be taken as a politicizing or polarizing statement. It's us needing to come together for solutions that will save American lives and reduce gun violence. It's really as simple as that. For [this administration] to be unable to see that that is what this conversation is trying to start is really disappointing."
So what’s the hold up, then? Why do we continue to see a lack of response from our leadership? Cech attributes it largely to the financial power of the gun lobby and their resulting ability to influence politicians.
But the progress of organizations like Everytown and Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America have demonstrated the power of grassroots movements: “In five short years, we’ve seen the incredible counterweight that our organization can pose to the NRA and to the gun lobby. We've seen that when Americans are shown that there are alternatives that make sense, they will agree.”
In acknowledgment of the federal government’s refusal to engage on the topic despite the magnitude of these attacks, Cech’s organization has turned their focus to implementing change on a state level.
“What we're seeing now is that American citizens continue to use their voices and call upon their elected officials to let them know that they don't represent their views when they are resisting this conversation about how to reduce gun violence. It’s imperative that we have these conversations,” she says.
One of the first steps advocates are encouraging people to take is to text the word “REJECT” to 64433, which will put you in contact with your local representative. And Cech stresses the importance of taking this action to let your views be known to your reps right now.
Prior to the shooting in Las Vegas, a vote on whether gun silencers should be made widely available for purchase—including to convicted felons and individuals with records of domestic abuse—was expected to take place imminently.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), has since stated that the vote is “not scheduled right now,” and that he doesn’t know when it will be, but the GOP remains rooted in its opposition to engaging in a conversation about gun control.
All the more reason for every American to make their voice heard, according to Cech. “It's really, really critical that people reach out to their elected officials and let them know that they're watching, and that they're paying attention, and that they know that this legislation is up for discussion. It's critical that people realize the impact that their voice will have, and that they begin to feel empowered to use it.”
Text “REJECT” to 64433 be put in contact with your local representative or “JOIN” to find out more about getting involved with your local chapter of gun-rights advocates. For more information, visit Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America.
Words: Deena Drewis