31 bullets: A Chicago Sun-Times campaign to end gun violence

SHARE 31 bullets: A Chicago Sun-Times campaign to end gun violence

31bullets is a campaign launching in the Chicago Sun-Times that will identify 31 specific actions Illinoisians can take to curb gun violence locally and nationwide. | Graphic design by Ogilvy

We were talking with an acquaintance the other day, Joe, whose teenage son had skipped that big national school walkout a couple of weeks ago to protest gun violence.

Joe asked why. His son said he had thought about walking out, but couldn’t see the point. What difference would it make? How would walking out do anything to stop shootings in schools?


Joe’s son needed more information. He wanted to understand how a young person like himself, just 17 years old, could do something concrete and specific — something more substantial than a symbolic walkout — to reduce gun violence in schools and everywhere else.

Jolie Davidson, a senior at Francis W. Parker school, walked out of class Friday, April 20, along with hundreds of other students from around Chicago to protest gun violence in a rally at Grant Park. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

Jolie Davidson, a senior at Francis W. Parker school, walked out of class Friday, April 20, along with hundreds of other students from around Chicago to protest gun violence in a rally at Grant Park. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

Joe’s son is not alone. Millions of American teens, as well as millions of adults, are horrified by the gun violence in our country, especially when it comes crashing through the classroom door. They want it to end, and they want to do their part to make it end.

But they don’t know how.

To provide answers to that question, and to do our own direct part in fighting the gun violence that is destroying our country in every way, the Chicago Sun-Times today is announcing a campaign called “31 bullets.” Beginning with this editorial, along with a video that you can view below or share on YouTube, we will in the next month identify 31 ways to stem the bloodshed.

Watch as seven Chicago-area teachers are trained to fire a handgun.

In each case, we will include a specific action that all of us, of any age, can take to make that happen.

Bullet 1: Sign the Sandy Hook Promise petition

We will post all of this information on a dedicated website, along with related stories, editorials and video, and we will do our best to deliver the message far and wide via social media. Starting today, we’re unveiling our first bullet and soliciting your input to help us develop the rest. Email us at letters@suntimes.com. We want to know what you think must be done and how.

There is no single answer — no silver bullet solution — to the crisis of gun violence in America, but there are many partial solutions. If we rally around them all, there is power in their comprehensiveness. We can arm ourselves not with guns, but with knowledge, and with the simple but effective tools of grassroots activism.

We have partnered in this campaign, 31 bullets, with the team at Ogilvy & Mather Chicago, one of the largest marketing and communications companies in the world. Ogilvy produced the video that we have posted here, which tells the story of seven Chicago-area teachers who recently visited a gun range. Ogilvy also is working with us to develop the 31 practical ways — always respectful of 2nd Amendment rights — that we can fill the dangerous holes in our state and national gun laws.

Why 31 bullets?

Because each year in the United States, by some estimates, ammunition manufacturers produce some 10 billion bullets — used by the soldier, the police officer, the tavern owner, the elderly woman defending her home, the deer hunter, the armed robber, the target shooter and the young man who walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018, and killed 17 people.

Ten billion bullets works out to 31 bullets for every man, woman and child in America. We are all in danger, that is to say, and we are all responsible. Every one of those 10 billion bullets is American-made.

The first of our 31 policy stands — bullet 1 — was carefully chosen: Guns in the classroom. We just think that’s a terrible idea.

A number of good studies, confirmed by experience in recent years in Chicago’s public schools, have found that the key to safety in a school is not guns. It is, rather, the nurturing of positive relationships among students, teachers and staff.

More to the point, if we’re living in the real world, teachers don’t want to be armed guards. A Gallup poll conducted in March found that nearly three-fourths of U.S. teachers do not want to carry guns in schools. They overwhelmingly favor gun control over security steps meant to “harden” schools.

That’s the message of the 3-minute video. It begins with a quote from President Donald Trump, who says he is certain the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High could have been averted if only the teachers had been packing pistols:

“If the coach had a firearm, he would not have run,” Trump says. “He would have shot and that would have been the end of it.”

The filmmakers then follow the seven teachers on a visit to a gun range. One teacher is a military combat veteran, while several others have never touched a gun in their lives.

They shoot this gun and that gun, carefully supervised by a pro, trying to hit a target shaped like a person. They cry out when the gun recoils and flinch when an empty shell ejects.

Is this an appropriate classroom role for a teacher?

“When I first heard it was an option, I kind of thought it was a joke,” says Jamie, who teaches the 3rd grade.

“I don’t feel comfortable with a gun at all,” says Lisa, a reading specialist. “That to me is not something that should be part of my alphabet and my short-vowel chart.”

“I signed up to teach,” says Valencia, a college psychology teacher. “And that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”

To ask America’s teachers to do anything more — to ask them to be tactical cops, security guards and paramedics — is to admit that we have given up as a society. It is to say that the only thing standing between a madman and an innocent child is a kindergarten teacher with a .45.

We can do better than that, and with 31 bullets we will say much more about how. Here’s hoping Joe’s son — and many more folks — will listen.

Send your ideas to curb gun violence to: letters@suntimes.com.

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