After every mass shooting, America holds its breath, wondering if this will be the one — the one that finally forces lawmakers to step up and enact the common-sense gun control measures that the majority of Americans support.

The one that gives us respite from the the tears, the anger, the candlelight vigils, and the mourning of children.


Students at Virginia Tech hold a candlelight vigil for the victims in Orlando. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

It didn't happen after Aurora, when a man opened fire in a crowded movie theater, killing 12. It didn't happen after Newtown, when 20 children aged 6-7 and their teachers were killed in their elementary school. It hasn't happened for any of the thousands of families mourning the loss of a loved one to gun violence in 2016 alone.

After the killings in Orlando in June, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, in which one man killed 49 people and injured 53 more in the span of a few short hours, we held our breaths again, wondering again if things would change.

This time, though, it feels like common-sense gun control measures might actually, finally be within reach.

Days after the massacre, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) staged a filibuster demanding action on gun control. He was joined by more than 30 of his colleagues.

The filibuster lasted 15 hours, and the Senate ultimately agreed to vote on the amendments Murphy was representing.


Sen. Chris Murphy led a 15-hour filibuster on gun control. Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images.

Days later, the Senate voted and rejected both amendments.

Today, House Democrats are staging a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives, demanding action on gun control.

The disruption has already forced the chamber into temporary recess twice, and eventually, C-SPAN cameras were shut off. Democrats began tweeting pictures from the sit-in with the hashtag #NoBillNoBreak.


The "No Bill No Break" campaign is designed to force Republican lawmakers into enacting gun control measures before the chamber takes a weeklong break.


Leading them: Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights leader who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s.


“For months, even for years, through seven sessions of Congress, I wondered, what would bring this body to take action?” Lewis (D-Georgia) said shortly before the sit-in.

"We have lost hundreds and thousands of innocent people to gun violence. Tiny little children. Babies. Students. And teachers. Mothers and fathers. Sisters and brothers. Daughters and sons. Friends and neighbors. And what has this body done? Mr. Speaker, not one thing.”


It's unclear if the House Democrats will have any more success than their colleagues in the Senate, but it's a relief to see lawmakers doing anything they can to enact effective gun control measures.

Even President Obama has voiced his support for Rep. Lewis and the protest:

And Rep. Keith Ellison's mom pulled him out of a meeting with an important message about the sit-in:

Ideally, lawmakers represent the will of the people. In reality, however, powerful lobbying forces like the National Rifle Association still hold major sway over many of our representatives.

The fact that the very people we elect to make the laws are resorting to protest tactics just to try to move things forward — after exhausting all their other by-the-books options — shows just how much of a stranglehold the NRA has on Congress.


Lawmakers doing more than just holding their breath is a welcome sight.

Whether the sit-in today will be enough remains to be seen.

But as the parable goes: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world.

It's the only thing that ever has."

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

Keep Reading Show less