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Risher: We Must Disarm America to End White Supremacy

Sharon Risher, center right, and Gary Washington, left, stand over the casket of their mother, Ethel Lance, following her burial service, the first one for the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

We have begun, as a nation, to slowly address the problem of the Confederate battle flag. NASCAR recently banned it from events, Mississippi recently removed it from the state’s flag, and more prohibitions are hopefully on the horizon. My own story is an example of that incremental progress: The traitorous flag that flew over the South Carolina Capitol the day mom was murdered was finally taken down a month later, after nationwide outrage.

But the truth is that taking down symbols of hate means very little unless we also disarm people who are inspired by them — and on that front, our nation has lagged woefully behind. We’ve failed to pass any significant federal gun-safety bill in the past 25 years; we’ve allowed armed extremists to brandish long guns at state capitols and intimidate peaceful protesters, and our background-check system remains riddled with gaps and loopholes. One of those gaps, now called the “Charleston loophole,” led directly to the death of my mom by allowing her killer to purchase a gun he was legally prohibited from owning.

So I share my story today, alongside other members of the Everytown Survivor Network, during National Gun Violence Survivors Week, to ask that as we reckon with hate in America, we also take action to disarm it.

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