CIW: Does Activism Make a Difference

Rolling Stone Senior Writer Jamil Smith hosted this session to look at how we can make changes in our world.

The first interview involved Heidi Stevens and Cleo Wade, as they examined how Cleo decided to make an impact on the women’s prison population. Cleo set forth her definition of HOPE defining it as: “the belief that our tomorrows can be better than our todays.

Cleo reiterated that it is important to recognize that it is not merely wishing for the best, but working towards the best. You want people to allow for what is possible and to build communities by telling stories. She provides live advice columns for the Women’s Prison Association. One of the things that she does is to ask people “What story would you tell if you knew that it could save one person’s life?”

Cleo’s research has shown her that women are the least visited people in prisons. She is pushing to help preserve their dignity, invest in spaces that help avoid trauma in the first place and to put more focus on how we help them re-enter the world. She emphasized that it needs to be an “us against the problem” mentality, so that we all need to collaborate to attack the problem.

Jamil Smith then sat down with Dan Edelman, founder of the famous Edelman PR firm. He started talking about their research which actually showed that consumers would be more likely to buy products from a company whose CEO stood up to gun violence. He feels that the NRA is actually holding back progress and acting counter to its own interests. He says that most gun owners are disappointed and feel that they are now getting a bad rap because of the irresponsibility. His message is that “it is okay to stand up to the NRA.” His recommendation is to focus the efforts on two critical points: 1) Proper background checks; 2) Safe storage of the weapons.

Edelman believes that the focus needs to shift on restoring the responsibilities that go with gun rights, as opposed to the frequent demand for unrestricted access. He thinks that requiring background checks for every gun sale and removing the rights from domestic abusers would help close some of the loopholes.

His research shows that 4.6 million children live at homes that do not have locked guns. The NRA has helped pass a law that prevents pediatricians from asking a family if there is a gun at home and if it is locked up.

Gun violence kills over 100 people every day. We need to train teenagers to interrupt the cycle of violence in their own homes.

The challenge of the state laws is that guns can cross state lines as easily as cars do. In Chicago, 20% of the guns come from Indiana. So we need to make sure that the solutions are federal because otherwise we are only as safe as the state with the weakest gun laws.

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