Admit uncomfortable truths about yourself.

Admit that you’re stagnant. Admit that typing out status updates on your Facebook page accomplishes nothing. Admit that beliefs are convenient. Admit you only get fired up about an issue when a news story breaks out. On an average day, you’ve never thought to join a movement, sign a petition, or write a letter to your politicians. You’ve never considered doing anything but sharing an article on social media, with the tagline: “So sad.”

Once you’ve admitted these truths, ask yourself why. Why is caring a part-time affair? Why do you feed off the trending hashtags? Why do you only post when it’s relevant?

You could make a list of reasons why shootings continue to happen in this country. You might have made this list inside a comment box on your favorite social media site. You’ve possibly even argued these points and reasons with companions in person. You’re no stranger to your soapbox.

But what happens to this soapbox the day after the news story? What happens to these comments, these shares, in a week? What does the Internet do with them? What do you do with them?

Admit uncomfortable truths about your culture. Admit that it’s stagnant. Admit that it’s centered around status updates and Tweets and metaphorical soapboxes that accomplish nothing. Admit that you don’t know what to Google in order to join a movement. Admit you don’t know what “joining a movement” means.

Understand that perhaps you need to start finding out. Understand that that’s okay. Understand that anyone who’s ever launched an effective bill, formed an organization, or wrote a progressive article started where you are.

Understand that it might take a few tries.

Admit it: You have more power than you think you do.

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Here are a few good places to start…

Make Sure You’re Properly Informed:

The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research is engaged in original scholarly research, policy analysis, and agenda-setting public discourse. Their goal is “to bring public health expertise and perspectives to the complex policy issues related to gun violence prevention,” and they explicitly state that “an important part of the Center’s mission is to serve as an objective and informative resource for the news media, thereby providing the public with accurate information about gun injuries, prevention strategies, and policies.”

WhiteHouse.gov has an entire section dedicated to preventing gun violence and understanding the reasons behind it. It also describes specific policies that could be put in place if, ya know, we felt they were important enough to enact.

Every Town for Gun Safety boasts a great library of data about everything from gun violence to statistics to illegal gun trafficking to suicide.

The Violence Policy Center (VPC) is a national non-profit organization based in Washington DC that works to stop the annual toll of death and injury due to firearms through research, advocacy, education, and collaboration. They believe that gun violence is more than a crime issue; it is a broad-based public health crisis of which crime is merely the most recognized aspect.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is a national law center focused on providing comprehensive legal expertise in support of gun violence prevention and the promotion of smart gun laws that save lives. As a nonprofit organization founded by attorneys, they remain dedicated to preventing the loss of lives caused by gun violence through educating the public, free of charge, on America’s gun laws and the solutions that will reduce the epidemic of gun violence in this country.

The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Laws is a great way to stay updated on issues regarding mental health, which is an integral factor in gun control debates.

ToBecomeATeacher.org has put together a a nice resource for learning about how you can help tighten gun control laws in schools and on college campuses.
 

Reach Out to Politicians:

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has more than a few ways to help you reach out to elected officials and other powerful companies like Visa (who fund NRA lobbyists) and Walmart (who sell a lot of guns). They also have a handy “Tweet Your Member of Congress” plug-in that does basically all the work for you.

Shame On Congress, hosted by Newtown Action Alliance, features a ‘Hall of Shame’ that highlights those Congressmen and Congresswomen who have gone out of their way to suck at helping stop gun violence in this country, with links to their Twitter and email addresses, of course.

Here’s a form letter that was popular after the Newtown shootings but is still a great template to use.
 

Sign Relevant and Impactful Petitions:

The Brady Campaign’s ‘Finish the Job’ Petition:
Since the Brady law was passed 20 years ago, background checks have stopped more than 2.4 million gun purchases by people like felons, domestic abusers, and fugitives. But 40% of gun sales still go unchecked, leaving the door open for dangerous people to buy guns. Sign this petition to demand Brady background checks on all guns sales.

Change.org’s Petition to the Virginia State House:
This petition started by Patrick Hope calls for Governor Terry McAuliffe and the Virginia State House to institute background checks on all gun purchases in Virginia (where the WBDJ shooting took place).

The Petition to Stop ‘Bad Apple’ Gun Dealers:
A CNN article co-written by Ruben Gallego, a U.S. Representative for Arizona’s 7th congressional district, and Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, reports that across America, just 5% of gun dealers supply nearly 90% of all the crime guns that police recover on our streets. This petition to stop ‘bad apple’ gun dealers is targeted directly at those specific dealers.