Editor’s note: The following remarks were delivered at the nationally broadcast Peoples’ Filibuster for Gun Safety (24-7). Rose Styron is a Martha’s Vineyard poet and human rights activist.

This filibuster seemed so important to me that I’ve written and will read my remarks. I am honored to be a part of the Leadership Council for the People’s Filibuster. Since I spent part of decades abroad on missions for Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and Beyond Conflict, I have become used to witnessing local and national sorrow over brutality and murder, but I must say nothing prepared me for the Newtown massacre in my Connecticut neighborhood. It made me keenly aware of the need for wide-reaching gun safety regulations in my own country, where, ironically, the abolition of the death penalty was one of my major concerns and fights.

I was a citizen of Connecticut, a few miles from Newtown, in 2012 (December 14) when the horrific shooting and killing of local students stunned us and the world. We knew casually relatives of the children killed. I remember being so moved by our congressman Chris Murphy who did his best to lead our mourning and comfort the families and the community. When the Parkland School massacre happened, shocking us again, I was grateful for the emergence of senior student David Hogg as the leader of March For Our Lives across-America, urging 18-year-olds and older students to vote, vote, vote.

Unbelievably, the school shootings continued: shootings have touched nearly every imaginable slice of American life. A Black church in Charleston, S.C. A government-funded nonprofit center in San Bernardino, Calif. A gay nightclub in Orlando. A country music festival in Las Vegas, a high school in Parkland, Fla, a synagogue in Pittsburgh, a Walmart in majority-Hispanic El Paso, followed just hours later by a shooting in a popular nightlife corridor in Dayton, Ohio, and an Asian American massage businesses in Atlanta. Then on May 14 this year, in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, another attack left 10 dead and brought mass shootings back into the news. And then — tragically — the shooting in Uvalde 10 days later.

Since the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999 where 12 students lost their lives, the shootings have become more frequent, the weapons used easily procured. The United States has had 2,032 school shootings since 1970. And staggeringly, 948 of these shootings have taken place since Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Guns are the number one cause of death among American children and teenagers.

I suspect, like me, that few Americans know that gun-related deaths happen five times more often than drownings.

Why is it that Australia, Britain, Scotland, and Wales passed laws almost immediately following school shootings, but we have stalled? Over the past several years these countries have seen an approximate 30 deaths a year related to guns compared to the United States’s 19,384 in 2020 alone.

Thirty compared to over 19,000. Let that sink in.

We know gun safety measures work.

I was most disturbed to learn that although under federal law, the minimum age to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer is 21, but the age limit drops to 18 if the gun is being purchased from a private, unlicensed seller, which could be a neighbor or someone online, or at gun show. In addition, to purchase a long gun, which incredibly includes rifles such as AR-15s, the minimum age required from a licensed dealer is just 18.

Now is the time for bipartisan solutions and actions. It’s hard not to see the connection between two policies right now—on the one hand, lawmakers who claim to value life are actively restricting a women’s right to choose abortion, and at the same time saying that it’s okay for children to grow up in a violent world where they could be among those killed by mistakenly permitted and evilly used firearms. It doesn’t make sense.

I’m glad to speak out through 24-7 today — we need to bring the voices of every-day people directly to Congress right now. We need to take action on gun safety now.

I hope everyone listening will join me in demanding that Congress take meaningful action to end the epidemic of gun violence.