The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Here are the groups working toward a future with less gun violence

Five candles flicker at the Dupont Circle fountain during a candlelight vigil in D.C. on Nov. 21 for the victims of the Colorado Springs LGBTQ club shooting. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

How about we think more like Hyacinthe Loyson than Mother Teresa in our giving this year?

Wait — what blasphemy is this? Why does a French theologian better symbolize the spirit of meaningful giving than the tiny Catholic nun who could barely see above the lectern at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, when she told a room of baggy Washington suits that “This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts”?

The Mother Teresa kind of giving changes our brains immediately. Neuroscientists have used regression analysis and neurotransmitter pathways that show all our happy dopamine triggers fire like Roman candles when we give to someone directly — a bowl of rice to the hungry, a warm jacket to the cold, attention and love to the lonely and forlorn.

The world will always need Mother Teresa love.

But now I’m going to tell you who Hyacinthe Loyson is and why we need him right now.

In 1866, Loyson delivered a speech asking his Parisian audience to be more like farmers:

“These trees which he plants, and under whose shade he shall never sit, he loves them for themselves, and for the sake of his children and his children’s children, who are to sit beneath the shadow of their spreading boughs,” according to an 1877 translation of his words.

It’s a version of an old proverb that America must heed today because of the immediate crisis unique to our nation: gun violence.

There have been more than 600 mass shootings in our nation this year. It’s a horror that radiates giant circles outside the bloodshed of immediate victims and their families.

We are a nation of many terrorized by the evil and illness of the few, and our children are growing up in a world completely different from the one most Americans until now have experienced.

And as we wake every morning, it seems, to news of another shooting — a school bus, a Walmart, a nightclub, a parade, an outdoor concert, a subway, a hospital, an elementary school, a grocery store all had multiple innocents hit by gunfire in the past nine months — it may seem hopeless.

We are the only nation that has more guns than people — 120 guns for every 100 Americans, according to the Swiss-based Small Arms Survey.

How can we change this?

Little by little. I’ve written about the ways our nation has slowly turned around other epidemics — smoking, car accident deaths, fire deaths. All that change happened little by little, through advocacy and legislation.

There is hope for stopping gun violence -- look at cigarettes and seat belts.

Each year, I promote lesser-known nonprofits that can use help on Giving Tuesday — the new, national day of donation — to make a big difference locally on issues that have weighed on us all year, from hunger to homelessness, immigration to domestic violence.

But this year, I’d like to offer options to contribute to organizations looking at the long game of curbing our escalating gun violence problem. These contributions won’t give immediate satisfaction. Giving to a group working on legislation to slow an angry and frustrated co-worker from buying a gun to unload into his staff that day — as Andre Bing allegedly did in a Virginia Walmart last week — will not give you the same warm fuzzies as adopting a kitten or feeding a hungry baby.

But these are the seeds to plant to help ensure the future safety of American children and grandchildren.

Here are four organizations that are doing the unsexy, exhausting and important work:

The National Council to Control Handguns was founded in D.C. in 1974 by armed robbery victim Mark Borinsky and Republican marketing manager Pete Shields, whose son was killed in a racially motivated shooting rampage in San Francisco known as the Zebra murders. Today, after that group merged with other advocates, it is simply known as Brady.

It became a huge organization after President Ronald Reagan was shot outside the Washington Hilton in 1981 and White House press secretary Jim Brady, who was also shot that day, and his wife Sarah joined the effort to prevent gun violence. The organization continues to work on comprehensive, nonpartisan reform.

Much younger — but fierce and powerful — is the growing Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. This organization is led by Shannon Watts, who was a fed-up, stay-at-home mother of five when she channeled her grief after the Sandy Hook massacre into a national movement. They have local chapters in every state and work to build leaders and highlight candidates’ stands on gun legislation in elections — the obverse of the National Rifle Association’s grades for gun-friendly candidates.

Tattoos and tears help moms get ready to fight gun violence

The Children’s Defense Fund has done work for decades to promote children’s welfare and development. And increasingly gunfire is becoming more dangerous to children than anything else. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for all children and teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Fund has been working on legislation and prevention in this area more and more.

The largest, most comprehensive organization that includes the moms, the students and the legislators is Everytown for Gun Safety. It may seem like a drop in the bucket when you give to a group that includes 100 million advocates, but their comprehensive work on legislation, grass roots student involvement and research can use all the help Americans are willing to give.

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