An Open Letter to Former President Barack Obama
Dear Mr. President,
In 1989, I began working on the difficult issue of gun violence prevention. The matter had become a passion of mine, not only because I witnessed an America being torn apart by guns but also because I had recently lost a dear friend who took her own life with a gun.
As executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, I have dedicated my life to stopping the violence that tears families and communities apart. Working in this field, I have experienced tremendous highs and heartbreaking lows.
As you leave office today, I want to thank you for your bold leadership on gun violence prevention issues. I want to thank you for believing we will succeed. I want to thank you for giving us hope. Your resolve in pushing for legislation that you knew would be difficult gave other elected officials the courage to finally stand up to the gun lobby. The executive actions you have issued — promoting smart guns, requiring background checks for those engaged in the business of selling firearms, and strengthening the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives — illustrate your commitment. You have used every possible resource at your disposal to enact change.
Watching your press conferences, I saw a leader frustrated by congressional resistance to common-sense solutions. Your beautifully crafted and profoundly important speeches in the wake of unthinkable tragedies — especially Tucson, Newtown, and Charleston — helped heal the wounds of a shaken America. Last January, I was honored to sit beside gun violence survivors, families, and activists as you spoke candidly and passionately about gun violence. You put the full weight of the presidency behind gun violence prevention, and in doing so, you showed America what bold leadership looks like.
You came to Washington promising “hope and change.” When it comes to this issue, I can proudly proclaim that you delivered. You changed the dynamic and the politics. Gun violence prevention is no longer an issue that lawmakers avoid at all costs. You brought tough votes to the floor of the United States Congress. You inspired a filibuster and sit-in in 2016. You gave strength to Democratic members who finally proclaimed that enough was enough, to hell with the rules. Your message encouraged politicians — from city council members to members of Congress to run openly and confidently on a gun violence prevention platform.
You have said the failure to enact federal legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting is the biggest regret of your presidency. But because of you and the activists that you inspired, Sandy Hook was not the end of this debate but the catalyst for the development of a strong and powerful movement. My organization and all the organizations in this effort will continue to fight for the change that we hope to see in America.
When those ultimate goals are finally met it will be in large part because of your vision, compassion, and leadership. We are forever grateful.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence