Do you feel the shift? Everything seems to have changed after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. For the first time in a long time, rational steps toward safer gun laws seem to be on the table, and the charge led by America's youths is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Thus, we reached out to New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence co-founder Miranda Viscoli to get her take on the issue. Founded in 2013 (spurred by the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012), the organization seeks safe and sane gun legislation, combats false narratives perpetrated by the NRA and works within schools with young people to address the widespread gun violence epidemic in America today. Simply put, Viscoli and her crew, all volunteers, are badasses.
First of all, are there any myths or misconceptions about gun violence or your work that you'd like to dispel?
I think the biggest messaging we have to fight is this idea that gun violence prevention laws don't work, that we have to make sure laws already on the books are working. New Mexico doesn't really have any bills, and [gun violence] prevention laws do work! The other thing we need to go after is to leave the people suffering from mental illness alone. All that does is stigmatize people suffering. Another myth we have to dispel is that assault weapons do exist. What happens is, the velocity is much stronger; it was designed for lethality. When that bullet goes into a body, it tumbles around in it; the liver, if it gets hit, is pulverized; the heart, if it gets hit, is destroyed. The body starts bleeding in so many places, the chances for survival are so slim.
The aftermath of this particular shooting feels very different than others. Would you agree?
Probably 70 percent of the work New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence does is with young people—giving them a voice. … We do a student pledge against gun violence so students can start to figure out ways to combat violence. We are really excited that people are finally saying 'Hey, listen to the kids!' I'm not tooting our own horn here, but we've been saying that since 2013. The kids are scared, they're heartbroken. I know one kid who has lost five family members to gun violence. Why does a kid know five family members shot and killed? The young people, their voice is so important, but my concern is with adults putting this more on the young people when we need to take responsibility. What about the kids who don't like protesting and being loud and out in public? I celebrate the kids who do do that, but we can't leave those who don't behind. The adults need to be just as loud, just as present, just as clear.
Are you seeing a lot of Second Amendment proponents changing their mindsets right now?
We do this Guns to Gardens buyback program where people bring in weapons [author's note: the program repurposes firearms as gardening tools], and we do this anonymous survey that asks why people are bringing in their weapons. Ninety-seven percent, according to our survey, are giving these weapons up because of safety. People are bringing in new weapons, still in the packaging. They're realizing once they got the weapon home they don't know why they got it. I think the buyback is the way of the future; the latest trend shows the people are reconsidering why they want the guns. We have to change our laws, especially in New Mexico—the Giffords Law Center gives us an F—and we have to educate people. Responsible gun owners do get a bad rap—they get lumped in this Second Amendment enthusiast and NRA crowd when they just want to go out with their buddies hunting. But if you're a member of the NRA, you're also a member of a racist organization. Do we really want to be in the business of supporting that?