This period of late October to early November is a particularly harrowing time of mass shooting memories. There have been lessons learned, loopholes closed, gun safety measures taken and opportunities missed.

Think of 2017, at Sutherland Springs Church in Texas.

Think of 2018, at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.

Think of 2023, in Lewiston, Maine.

I’m sharing comments from a column by Kate Woodsome, who lived in Portland, Maine. Her take is “Gun rights advocates will focus on mental illness. Gun-control advocates will focus on guns.” 

Living with everyday loss

Kate writes, “What the country should focus on is supporting the survivors. To do this, we need to understand the empty spaces that gun violence creates. People go missing from homes, schools and friendships. A sense of safety and security vanishes. In the void, fear, grief, and rage take their place. Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder move in.” 

Kate’s perspective of needing to understand the empty spaces that gun violence creates is so important. It bridges the mass shootings that garner the media attention and addresses everyday gun violence like suicides, community violence and domestic violence. It opens the lens to include all the people on the fringes: the doctors, the educators, the co-workers, the neighbors on the streets that children pass as they walk to school, and the people at the bowling alley in Lewiston that night. 

Fill the empty spaces with Community

Reflecting on the toll that gun violence takes, a pastor told Woodsome, “We don’t really know how to address the empty spaces, so we pretend they aren’t there and hope they’re going to scar over.” Kate adds, “There is something that can keep us individually and collectively from falling further apart. Community. It fills the space. It means that the community, our bullet-ridden country, needs to acknowledge the terror that gun violence sows.” 

I can’t think of a better argument for why community violence intervention and prevention (VIP) funding is so important. Community is why the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act has been so influential. It’s why we must push our local elected and government officials to think of community when they focus on preventing gun violence. 

Debbie McDaniel-Lindsey is a volunteer with San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.

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