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Grinnellians organize 26 Days of Action to call for legislative gun control change

Brownells, the largest gun part manufacturer in the US, is owned by NRA President and Grinnell resident Pete Brownell. The group behind 26 Days of Action has called for a response from Brownell about the recent mass shootings. Photo by Andrew Tucker.

By Seth Taylor

As reports of gun violence become commonplace in U.S. media and U.S. politicians’ responses to mass shootings become so regular they might as well be recycled, Grinnellians have begun to mobilize, seeking the legislative change that they see fit. According to a press release, a group of “neighbors, parents, students, educators, co-workers, retirees, volunteers and business owners” have organized 26 Days of Action against Gun Violence to “call for constructive change to our country’s gun laws and culture.” The 26 Days of Action will begin Nov. 19 and end Dec. 14.

Professor Eliza Willis, political science, and the Rev. Wendy Abrahamson are members of the group behind the 26 Days of Action. They are careful to specify that they are not members of an organization, but “just a group of people that are interested,” Willis said.

It all started with a letter. After the Oct. 1 shooting in Las Vegas, a group of Grinnellians sent a letter signed by 170 people to Pete Brownell. Brownell is the president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the CEO of Brownells (the largest gun parts manufacturer in the United States) and a resident of Grinnell. The letter asked Brownell for a meeting to discuss gun issues and the NRA. Brownell offered no response, so the group decided to act on their own. The result, after much consideration and planning, is the 26 Days of Action against Gun Violence.

Each of the 26 days stands for one of the 26 students and teachers killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. During these days a host of educational events and community discussions will be held to bring attention to gun violence in the United States. Some notable events include a panel on current gun law, a showing of the documentary “Newtown” (attended by the filmmakers themselves) and a session to write postcards to Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa. It all culminates with a vigil on the 26th day, Dec. 14, commemorating the Sandy Hook shooting and all those who have lost their lives to gun violence.

Abrahamson sees Grinnell as having a unique opportunity to affect change, having Pete Brownell as our neighbor.

“One of the things I find powerful … is that we’re just his neighbors,” she said. “We’re not an organized group that has come from anywhere. You go to the movies and he’s at the movies … we want our neighbor to help us.”

The group hopes to achieve “a broad community discussion,” combining the voices of both the College and town communities. Willis hopes “to really have a discussion about what’s the way forward, including thinking about people who have guns, but are really in favor of having some kind of controls on those guns that are reasonable.”

Brownells, the largest gun part manufacturer in the US, is owned by NRA President and Grinnell resident Pete Brownell. The group behind 26 Days of Action has called for a response from Brownell about the recent mass shootings. Photo by Andrew Tucker.

While both Abrahamson and Willis believe in the power of activism, they are convinced that real change must be undertaken at the legislative level.

“In America anyway, the way that we affect common life is through legislation,” Abrahamson said.

“Activism plays a very important role in raising consciousness and awareness,” Willis added. “And the push for legislation can come out of that, out of that process. It’s the only process that those of us who do not have a lot of money and power can do to bring those things to the awareness of the legislative government.”

In the end, they hope that raising awareness and having this conversation will help to spark change.

“I want to communicate that change is possible,” Willis said. “I liked very much the thing that Senator Chris Murphy said yesterday or the day before: it’s a myth that this cannot be changed. It’s a myth. We cannot allow ourselves to get into a mode of thinking that this problem that we have of too many people dying from guns [is normal]. … This is not normal, and it’s a myth that we can’t change it. It didn’t used to be this way. It doesn’t need to be this way in the future.”

“I’m not really approaching this as an activist. For me, it’s just humanity,” Abrahamson said, in a similar vein. “I’m doing this as a human being. … For me, this is an act of mourning.”

No matter where you fall on the issue of gun violence, these 26 Days of Action provide a plethora of opportunities to learn more about the issue and make your voice heard. To participate in the conversation, you just need to show up.

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  • B

    Bill and Deb PaulyNov 11, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    This is an extraordinary call to action and the best of our humanity in the face of the once all-powerful gun lobby, and the all-too-common tragedies in our lives due to gun violence. Bravo, Grinnell! Bravo 26 Days of Action! Bravo, Mr. Taylor, for calling our attention to this activism.

  • M

    mtaylorNov 11, 2017 at 5:04 am

    Wow. Grinnell is perfectly positioned to help make this difference, counter the myth, and change the story. Great idea. Powerfully written story. I’d like to meet this Wendy Abrahamson.