Speaking out: It's American exceptionalism, but we shouldn't be proud of it

I am angry.

I am sad.

I am frustrated.

Nineteen kids shot to death by someone who was 18 and able to buy an assault weapon in Texas - but wouldn't have been able to buy a beer for three more years.

Something is wrong, and we need to fix it. This does not happen on a regular basis in other countries around the world.

Only in America.

That is not something to be proud of. This year alone - and it's just the start of June - we have seen over 20 school shootings and over 200 mass shootings around the country. We cannot help but wonder if, one day, it could happen in our own neighborhoods.

Think of those families whose lives have been changed forever. Can you imagine what it would be like to lose one of your kids or grandkids in a senseless school shooting? We all have to take off our shoes before be get on an airplane because of one incident - years ago - involving a failed shoe bomb.

We all have to wear seat belts and observe speed limits on our highways to reduce injuries or fatalities from accidents.

So why can't we put the brakes on gun violence?

I remember how outraged I was when the Senate failed to act after 20 children, just 6 to 7 years old, were killed in the Sandy Hook School shooting almost 10 years ago.

Then there were countless others after: Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 were murdered. A couple of weeks ago, a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

When will we act?

We all need to get angry. We all need to speak out like Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr did. We need to speak out loudly and endlessly until we see action.

As I think we all know by now, thoughts and prayers are not enough. Of course there is no silver bullet that will eliminate all gun violence, but we have to find ways to save lives. There is no good reason people need to be able to acquire assault weapons that are primarily designed for our military.

There is no reason we should not have universal background checks. Ninety percent of Americans support such checks to eliminate the loop holes for people to get guns at gun shows. Red flag laws that get guns out of the hands of people who might hurt themselves or others are only common sense.

We need to support mental health screenings that might alert us to people who might be prepared to hurt themselves or others. We need to support monitoring of social media that will give law enforcement a heads up on people who are posting about a desire to hurt others.

We need to support reforms on social media that will provide accountability to platforms that don't police themselves with regard to postings promoting violence.

Why have we not seen action? We have Senators and Congressmen who are beholden to the NRA and the gun lobby and their campaign funds. We need to stop voting for politicians who won't support sensible actions that the overwhelming number of Americans want to see enacted.

We need to vote for candidates who are prepared to take action. Even if our local Congressmen and women and Senators support reasonable gun violence reduction measures, we need to support and send checks to candidates around the country who will commit to voting for reasonable gun violence prevention that the majority of our country wants to see enacted.

We cannot sit back and allow the status quo to remain in place on gun violence. Enough is enough! We all need to do our part, and cannot stop until we see actions that will help reduce the pandemic of gun violence.

Let's inoculate our nation and give ourselves a shot in the arm to help save lives.

• Elliott Hartstein of Northbrook is an attorney and a former Buffalo Grove village president. If you are interested in possibly discussing this topic further over Zoom with Elliott and others, you can email him at

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.