Ashley Cech is the daughter of Sandy Hook School librarian Yvonne Cech and a program associate at Everytown for Gun Safety. The views expressed are her own.
On Monday morning, Americans everywhere woke up to the horrific news of the largest and deadliest mass shooting in modern American history — for now.
As the daughter of the librarian who survived the shooting at Sandy Hook School, I am devastated and utterly heartbroken to learn at least 59 people were killed, and more than 500 were injured as a result of this tragic, cowardly act of violence. But sadly, I am not surprised by this latest act of mass violence. What I am is angry. Very, very angry.
I’ve seen how this plays out.
Distressed Americans will react with thoughts and prayers on social media.
Hashtags will trend on Twitter.
Vigils will be organized.
Politicians will offer their heartfelt condolences and moments of silence in honor of those who have been “impacted” by this tragedy.
I know this because my family experienced this same pattern firsthand when my mom protected her class of 18 fourth-graders from a gunman at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012. That day, 20 six- and seven-year-olds and six educators were shot and killed. Another two educators were wounded.
My mom had been the librarian at Sandy Hook School for almost a decade on the day of the shooting. When the shots rang out, it took her mere seconds to understand those pops she heard over the intercom were gunshots. Those seconds were critical.
My mom jumped into action. When she realized their practiced spot for lockdown drills was unsafe, my mom had to improvise, and with the help of her staff, she herded her students into a back closet and barricaded the door with a file cabinet to keep them safe from the gunfire.
Meanwhile, she created as many obstacles as possible between the doors and those children - in case the shooter made his way into the library - pulling book carts and printers in front of the door to block the path.
My family wouldn’t know for several hours if my mom, her staff or any of her class had survived the shooting.
Because my mom and her colleagues could identify the gunshots, they were able to quickly get kids to safety, and everyone in the library survived — it was the difference between life and death.
I began working at Everytown for Gun Safety because I wanted to do everything in my power to keep another tragedy like that from happening ever again. In my time working directly with those who have survived shootings or whose loved ones have been taken, I have learned so much about the complex problem of gun violence in this country.
I have learned that it takes tragedies like the shooting last night for most people to pay attention to this issue, despite the fact that 93 Americans are killed with a gun every day and hundreds more are injured.
I have learned that while there isn’t one piece of legislation that will solve all of gun violence, there are common-sense solutions we can pursue that are proven to save lives, like requiring criminal background checks on all gun sales.
I have also learned that all too often, those same politicians who hide behind empty words of sympathy in the days after a tragedy like this will be predictably absent when it counts, when legislation that could save future lives from similar violence is up for discussion.
In the months after the shooting at Sandy Hook School, politicians failed to pass federal legislation that would have required criminal background checks on all gun sales.
Last month, a congressional committee voted to advance NRA-backed legislation called the SHARE Act that could make mass shootings like this even more deadly by making it easy for anyone, including convicted felons and domestic abusers, to buy a gun silencer without a background check. Congressional leaders may consider this bill on the House floor as soon as this week.
I know as a result of my mom’s experience that hearing those gunshots was critical to her survival and the survival of all others in the library that day. And while the shooting in Las Vegas was truly horrific, it could have been far worse if people had been unable to identify those noises as gunshots and take cover.
You can take steps to help reduce gun violence right now: Call your representatives and let them know you want them to oppose this dangerous, life-threatening legislation that would make it easy for anyone, including convicted felons and domestic abusers, to buy a gun silencer without a background check.
And if you haven’t already, text ACT to 644-33 to find out how to get involved with Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America locally.
The time to talk about preventing gun violence is now; we don’t need more moments of silence. Don’t make the same mistake that I did and wait until this uniquely American tradition hits close to home to get involved.
This content is currently unavailable. Check it out from your desktop or on our web app!
Correction: An earlier headline on this story incorrectly indicated that the author's mother was shot at Sandy Hook. Refinery29 regrets the error.