Unfit to Own a Gun

by Katharine Blake McFarland

I was in my office at the Children's Defense Fund when I heard that someone had shot and killed an unknown number of children at a school in Newtown, Connecticut. I picked up the phone and called one of the top gun safety organizations in the country, and asked to speak to their policy director. When I told him who I was, and where I was calling from, he said, “Wow, I'm so sorry. What a day for you guys.” I digested the misplaced apology—there I sat, safe in my office in Washington, D.C. while mothers and fathers pulled in to the Sandy Hook Elementary School parking lot—but managed to say something like, “you, too.” Then there was a beat of silence that would have felt uncomfortable on another day, like standing too close to a stranger, but on that day it was forgiven because words prove themselves deficient on days like that, and in the face of events for which we are all to blame, apology might be the truest beginning. “So, what are you guys going to do?” I finally asked him, and we starting talking strategy.

This is how it felt in D.C.: even in the earliest moments after the earliest Newtown headlines, change seemed close enough to touch. The shooting was like a terrible wave rising in the distance, but it was a wave that might carry us to shore if we could catch it and the current stayed strong. It was opportunistic, surely, but the alternative seemed worse: to grieve and then do nothing, to let it pass, until the next mass shooting when we would grieve and do nothing again.

So I did what we do in D.C. In my role at CDF, I attended and organized meetings, rallies, and press conferences. I went to events on Capitol Hill and at the White House. We asked volunteers to call and visit their elected officials, and we supported the work of incredible grassroots groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. I researched numbers and drafted statements. I hugged mothers who had lost their children in previous mass shootings, like Virginia Tech and Aurora. I hugged mothers who had lost their children in the crossfire of gang violence in Chicago. This was my first time working on guns, in my first job out of law school, but it was not new subject matter for CDF, who first began collecting data on children and guns in 1979.

How do you get people to listen? Numbers help put it in perspective. If you add up the soldiers killed in action in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, you get 52,183 lives lost. During that same time (1963 to 2010), 166,500 children and teens were shot and killed by guns here at home. That's three times as many children as soldiers in war, and averages out to 3,470 children and teens killed every year. Or, 174 classrooms of 20 children a year. Or, 174 Newtown's a year.

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Losing the Plot: Habits of the Heart (Complete Novel)

by Maniza Naqvi Poppy

Chapter One: The Little Coffee Shop

Chapter Two: The Hotel

Chapter Three: Dreaming Dulles

Chapter Four: Civil War

Chapter Five: Stanley’s Girl

Chapter Six: Hope

“We are just props for validating and furthering their policy! We say no to them and they punch us hard and prove their point with another explosion! Can't you see that?”

“No, jan–I cannot–You have made this a habit–of blaming America for everything!”

“No I have not made it a habit! Isn’t it curious that every time they make a policy statement—quoting D’Touqueville to us—-every time they want to force Pakistan to take a position in their war and Pakistan resists—some sort of a violent event takes place in Pakistan to prove their point? Isn’t that just a little suspect? They are going to increase their troops here—they are going to expand the war into Pakistan—they are going to occupy us—just wait and see!” Zarmeenay had argued, in an urgent tone, her eyes wide and serious as she had packed to leave for Baluchistan. “ We have to stop them Mama.—we have to push back! Amir, Amreekah, Mama! Amir Amreekah!”

“I don’t know Zarmeenay.” Rukhsana had argued with her daughter, “Maybe it’s time we stopped blaming everybody else for all the criminals that have been created right here in Pakistan in the name of religion.’

“Mama! Please—there no such thing as Al Qaeda! There’s no such thing as the Taliban! This is all the same old, same old, overt-covert good old CIA—now breaking up Pakistan—we will have Pushunistan, Baluchistan—Serakiistan—Kashmir, Baluchistan, Karachistan, Sindhistan—just wait. They will do worse to us than what they did to Yugoslavia and the breaking apart of the Soviet Union—just wait—……They will murder all of us!”


“Don’t you agree with me Mama, that they killed Benazir Bhutto? They already knew who was her murderer the moment she died? They had decided who to accuse of her murder the day she was murdered? So Benazir is dead, and Baitullah Mesud is dead—But they can’t find Osama Bin Laden in all these ten years of looking for him with all the sophisticated technology that they have?”

“Really! I’m so worried about you darling! Zarmeenay, you are beginning to go too far! I’m scared for you! You talk like this everywhere in public and I’m afraid for you! ” Rukhsana had said to Zarmeenay just before she had left the house.

“Don’t be afraid, Mama. Don’t be afraid! That’s been our main problem we’ve been afraid for too long. It’s too late to be afraid now, we have to take action. We have to save ourselves, our country! You’ll see Mama! I’m right! It’s time to listen to your heart Mama, I’m listening to mine. We have to fight for Pakistan!”

And Zarmeenay had disappeared. Just like that vanished. Now she was dead.

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