Can Hillary Clinton Lock Down This Election by Facing Off With the NRA?

schools and guns, Hillary Clinton on guns, Bernie Sanders on guns, schoolchildren and guns

What kind of “hero” can change truly our country’s conversation about gun violence? To find out, let’s start by changing our own cultural consciousness about a woman’s place in society.

I ask my first-grader how her school day was. It’s the same question I ask her every day. But this time, instead of telling me about her reading group, her friends or the adventures of her class pet – a bunny rabbit – she shares words that make me shiver.

“Mommy, we had to turn out the lights, and sit very, very quietly in the dark, to hide from the bad people,” she says in her not-quite babyish, but far from grownup voice. “I was good, mommy. I was very quiet—I didn’t move.”

I think I hid my reaction, but tears sprang to my eyes as I took in the matter-of-fact way she describes a lockdown drill, de rigueur for schools since Sandy Hook.

I can’t escape it. This is the new normal. And it makes me nauseous.

Where I grew up with fire safety drills, my daughter is growing up in a world that I no longer recognize– where I have to look away from the evening news because it is so depressing. So filled with the darkness of the human condition. So filled with guns and the destruction they cause.

A toddler kills his grandmother with a gun. A preschooler shoots his dad in the car, with a gun. Mass shootings everywhere a mother’s mind can reach. My mind doesn’t want to reach there, but I have no choice. I have to stay grounded in reality, to help my child navigate this new world.

Media pundits like Nicholas Kristoff have provided some remedies—“what we need is an evidence-based public health approach— the same model we use to reduce deaths from other potentially dangerous things around us, from swimming pools to cigarettes,” he writes in a a brilliant article in The New York Times, where he suggests we require the same standards of guns that we do of cars, which has reduced auto fatality rates by 95 percent. “We’re not going to eliminate guns in America, so we need to figure out how to coexist with them,” Kristoff writes.

So what about our elected officials? Can they help? Lyrics from Bonnie Tyler’s song from the movies Footloose and Shrek, “Holding Out for a Hero,” runs through my mind:

“Where have all the good men gone

And where are all the Gods?

Where’s the street-wise Hercules

To fight the rising odds?”

Here are our odds. Since 1970, more Americans have died from gun violence than died in all U.S. wars since the American Revolution. The problem is our mostly-male politicians, in staggering numbers have turned a deaf ear, ignoring the fervent pleas of their constituents. They are afraid of being our heros–afraid of turning the status quo on its ear by taking on the NRA.

“Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?

Late at night I toss and I turn

And I dream of what I need


I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero

‘Til the end of the night

He’s gotta be strong

And he’s gotta be fast

And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight”

The other day, I was watching the Democratic debate and of all the candidates, one, just one, Hillary Rodham Clinton was the first to take a stance on gun violence.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, is Bernie Sanders tough enough on guns?

CLINTON: No, not at all. I think that we have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence. This has gone on too long and it’s time the entire country stood up against the NRA.

One mother can dream. Many mothers banded together in a common cause can make the world we want our children to grow up in a reality.

Hillary amongst deafening applause had my rapt attention as she continued speaking about her support of background checks, and the Brady Bill—which since passing has helped prevent more than two million prohibited purchases. Unlike Sanders, she is against the immunity provision, which does not hold gun manufacturers culpable for selling the guns.

She ended her well-informed, passionate response with this statement, “Everyone else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers. And we need to stand up and say: Enough of that. We’re not going to let it continue.

We’re not going to let it continue. Those words are music to my ears.

“I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero

‘Til the morning light

He’s gotta be sure

And it’s gotta be soon

And he’s gotta be larger than life”

The day of the lockdown, I received this email from our school.

“Earlier today we conducted a Shelter in Place/LockDown Drill. Our school conducts these drills periodically as part of our regularly-required emergency systems preparation. 

 Today’s drill was smooth and uneventful.  On behalf of our faculty and staff I thank you for your understanding of and support for these procedures.” 

“Smooth and uneventful.” Oh, what a wonderful world that would be. Taking on the NRA and the gun manufacturer’s and holding them accountable to standards and protections would be a start.

“Somewhere after midnight

In my wildest fantasy

Somewhere just beyond my reach

There’s someone reaching back for me

Racing on the thunder

And rising with the heat

It’s gonna take a Superman

To sweep me off my feet”

 I don’t need Superman; I need someone who understands my concerns and fears, not some macho stud swooping in to think for me. (Like that’s worked so well throughout history.)

Perhaps the answer to a safer future for our children doesn’t lie in a man, but in the heart and brilliant mind of a woman–a mother, a grandmother, a lawyer, and an advocate for children. Someone who is weathered and wiser, but not beaten down by the experiences, successes and failures of her life?

Can we turn the zeitgeist upside down and change our own cultural consciousness about a woman’s place in society? We need to try.

“I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero

‘Til the end of the night”

One mother can dream. Many mothers banded together in a common cause can make the world we want our children to grow up in a reality.

That’s why this time around I’m holding out for a heroine, not a hero, who can take on the NRA.

I’m holding out for Hillary.

Estelle Erasmus is an award-winning journalist, author and writing coach. She is a contributor to the forthcoming anthology Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox (Nov. 2015). Her writing appears in The Washington Post, Brain, Child, Redbook, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping and more. She is on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • The idea that kids have to drill like this is horrifying. I think Hillary can face off with the NRA because her base is not their supporters. However, she has to be super-strategic, because they are well-funded and will fight back hard. Here’s hoping she can do it, become president and effect change in this area.

  • Lisa_GrandmasBriefs

    I typically refrain from any political discussion online yet when kids are enduring such drills and folks continually die because of guns, I support any sort of stopping the madness related to the egregiously out of control gun control issue.

  • This is a very powerful blog. The thought that my granddaughter will be going to school and having practice drills on how to hide from “bad people” is completely unexceptable to me. This is very political make no mistake about it! These laws are made by the politicians that we elect!

  • Haralee

    Thank-you Estelle for writing such a great post about this issue of guns. Hunters can have guns locked up. Everyone else, I don’t see the need or purpose. I feel less safe knowing there are guns close to me! Hillary is the voice of sensibility.

  • CaptCruncher

    I remember hiding under our desks during bomb drills and thinking how crazy it all was — those were world issues and scares that were too big for little children to grasp. The threats have changed and they feel so much more personal and random now — it all is spinning out of control. You are right — solutions that require both compassion and accountable might best come from a woman. Especially if that woman has the ability to stand tall and the heart of lioness! Love your insights and perspective Estelle.

  • Lois Alter Mark

    YES! We need Hillary and we need gun control. I think it’s time to get some female energy in the White House.

    • Estelle Sobel Erasmus


  • We have to be our own heroes. It makes me sick to know that kids do this drill….I had no idea.

    • Estelle Sobel Erasmus

      Yes, they do, in every school around the country.

  • Cheryl Nicholl

    I’m old enough to remember the Red Scare and practicing for nuclear war. THIS is not that. THIS we can do something about. BRAVO!

    • Estelle Sobel Erasmus

      Absolutely. Thank you.

  • Of course gun violence is tragic but I think we need to get a realistic handle on terrorist of all types and mental illness first.

  • Stacia Friedman

    Yesterday horrific shooting in San Bernadino SHOULD have started a conversation among all presidential candidates. However, the one it started was the wrong one. All they could agree on is that we need to make sure that people with “mental health issues” don’t have access to guns. But that is not the problem. The problem is G-U-N-S! Not mental illness. Guns kill and the majority of homicides are not caused by mentally ill individuals. They are caused by normal people – often policemen – who have access to guns.

    • Estelle Sobel Erasmus

      I so agree with you.

  • Mary La Fornara

    Yesterday was a horrific day in our country.

  • I hope people are fed up enough and that she steps out big time. She’s in a perfect position to take that risk.


    • Estelle Sobel Erasmus

      She certainly is. I really hope she gets that chance.

  • Unfortunately, removing guns is not going to solve the problem because all of the criminals will still have them and good citizens will not be able to protect themselves. Something needs to be done for sure…it’s not an easy problems to fix.

    • Estelle Sobel Erasmus

      But it’s a start. We can remove access to the heavy artillery weapons. That premise has proven to be false, that good citizens can protect themselves. Nobody should need an automatic rifle, and if we remove access, it will be much harder. Guns equal murder, the stats prove it.

      • Agreed! Heavy artillery weapons ban for sure. And in dept background checks too. While it’s true that guns are deadly, so are knives, baseballs bats, and a wide assortment of other tools. It’s the end user…not the weapon.

  • Excellent piece. The ease with which firearms, including assault rifles and extended clips, are gotten in this country is a national shame. Women are the answer. Hillary is a bit too hawkish for my first choice, but I do like her stand on gun laws. Oh I know I should hold out hope for things to get better, but we have to do so much education to help people understand that gun regulation is a good and necessary thing.

  • Great piece Estelle. I’m at loose ends over the gun issue. There seems no expedient solution, but certainly what we’re doing is not working. With so many brilliant minds in this country, surely a workable plan can be created.

  • Lois Alter Mark

    I am so with you. I think Hillary may be the only one who will actually stand up to the NRA. It’s time for a woman’s touch on this issue. She may turn out to have more balls than all the male politicians combined.

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