Do you feel as if you could be a target? Do you wonder whether you’re safe while shopping or at church or attending a summer concert?

If those questions are nagging at you, you’re not alone — especially after yet one more deadly weekend in America.

Twenty-two innocent people were killed and more than two dozen wounded at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Less than 13 hours later, nine people were killed and 27 injured in Dayton, Ohio, where authorities said a gunman wearing body armor mowed down his victims in just 30 seconds.

There have been 251 mass shootings in the U.S. this year, according to data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks every mass shooting in the country. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as any incident in which at least four people were shot, excluding the gunman.

For those of you who think it can’t happen here, we remind you of Feb. 14, 2008, when five students were killed and 17 injured at Northern Illinois University. The gunman killed himself.

There isn’t a community in America that hasn’t been affected by gun violence.

Thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families are important, but without imminent divine intervention, we mortals need to act.

And there’s the problem. We can’t decide what action to take. Politicians are vowing to do something, but do you believe anything will happen before the 2020 election? There are all sorts of proposals, but we’ve heard many of those before and they went nowhere. We thought there would be changes in gun laws after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 26 people were killed, but nothing changed and the killings continued.

We don’t foresee any real leadership emerging on this issue.

The majority of Americans believe in sensible gun control, but one person’s sensible is another’s infringement on Second Amendment rights. Who defines what sensible looks like? Too bad sensible doesn’t have a lobby.

Better access to mental health care? Sure, we all favor that — in theory, at least – but when it comes down to creating budgets, whether at the local, state or federal level, mental health funding always seems to be the first thing to get cut.

There is one action you can take, however, and, as simple as it sounds, it will pay off in the long run.

Vote.

Make gun violence a voting issue. If your safety and that of your loved ones isn’t a voting issue, nothing is.

Carry the images of last weekend’s violence into the voting booth. Think of the people who were gunned down in El Paso while shopping for school supplies and imagine yourself at the scene. It’s not that hard to do.

Then think of the mother who died shielding her infant son and the father who died trying to shield them both in Dayton. Imagine yourself as that mother or father. Again, it’s not hard to do.

But for some reason we find it hard to get out and vote. Voting is easy. If your calendar is booked on Election Day, you can vote early or by absentee ballot. Still, people find an excuse not to vote. Voter turnout was at a 20-year low in 2016. About 55 percent of Americans went to the polls. The previous low in a presidential election year was 53.5 percent in 1996.

Politicians seem to fear losing their jobs above all else. Voters should send some of them back home and elect women and men with the backbone to take on the challenge of gun violence.

If you don’t like public policy on guns or anything else, there is one certain way you can effect change.

Vote.

Rockford Register Star, Aug. 7

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