Boomer Opinion: A White House Form Letter doesn’t cut it

BoomerCafé contributor Erin O’Brien of Warwick, Rhode Island, is pretty mild-mannered. She often writes about the peculiarities of the weather and the scenery and the new life she lives since moving from Southern California to New England. But for now, she is changing course, because she is mindful that the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado was 19 years ago, and that today’s high school seniors have always known that a campus shooting is a possibility. So Erin offers her opinion as a baby boomer about school shootings, and guns, and how the White House responds.

I hate form letters. They are detached and impersonal, especially when one comes from the highest office of our country.

I haven’t marched. I write, because I have a pretty good command of the English language. This is why it is disappointing — no, insulting — to receive another generic response from the White House that does not apply to my particular concern and, moreover, is obviously not from the person to whom my letter was addressed.

February 18, 2018, another shooting at a school in America. Parents wait to learn the fate of their children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Photo by Joel Auerbach, Associated Press.

I was diplomatic. In my letter to the White House I wrote in support of enacting sensible gun laws. But when the response arrived, thanking me for “taking the time to express my views on the Second Amendment” and informing me that “undermining our Second Amendment rights will not enhance our safety,” I knew my voice had not been heard in the Oval Office. I had received The Form Letter.

The form letter Erin O’Brien received.

The letter from the White House, dated January 25th, referenced last year’s concert shooting in Las Vegas, and the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. However, three days before the date on the letter, there also was a school shooting in Texas, then the next day a deadly one in Kentucky. Yet these were not mentioned on the White House stationery. Here lies the necessity to update one’s Form Letter.

AR-15 assault style guns are plentiful and easy to acquire in many states.

Incidentally, there was an accidental school shooting in an Los Angeles Unified middle school on February 2nd. All of which came before the Valentines Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida.

Catering to America’s culture of guns … Kimber Firearms promotes his and her semi-automatic pistols for February 14, 2018.

I did not call for rescinding Second Amendment rights. I called for the implementation of sensible gun laws.

Additionally, there is the vocabulary from the White House. I’ve never heard Mr. Trump use such words as “confronting” or “wisdom” or “enshrined” or “hallmark” or “sovereign” or “upholding” or for that matter, “undermining.” For me, his vocabulary alone was a huge and tremendous red flag.

Perhaps the “Change Gun Laws or Change Congress” t-shirt I sent Mr. Trump as a follow-up to accompany my letter was not well received. Maybe I will get a Thank You Form Letter from someone else in Washington, D.C. who is wearing it.

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18 Comments

  1. A thoughtful, measured response, Erin, to someone who is neither thoughtful nor measured. He doesn’t think; he doesn’t feel; he doesn’t read; he doesn’t care. These days, in the wake of gun violence, the Right will only talk about “mental illness.” Like it’s not crazy to fail to apply common sense to the gun ownership debate. Thoughts and prayers alone don’t solve anything.

  2. The first Presidential candidate who takes a really firm gun control stance and actually puts comprehensive legislation into words, can ride a groundswell of support to The White House. The support is there and it’s real.

    No more waiting, No more “the time isn’t right.” No more “thoughts and prayers.” I’m sick of hearing and reading “thoughts and prayers.” Someone needs to step up.

  3. What if we had a National Day of Mourning for the 17? No children attend school, nor teachers or any one else. Parents stay at home with the children. We all properly and patriotically mourn our collective loss.

    What if We the People acted together?

    How would your next day be different, knowing you became part of the solution?

    1. Alan, Rose, and Karen,

      The American flag is at half staff again.

      Any members of Congress who accept campaign contributions from the NRA, who do not support the ban of assault rifles and bump stocks, and who do not Insist on regulatory provisions for the risks of the concealed carry reciprocity measure should consider themselves complicit in the next school shooting.

  4. How many hand written letters did you get from Obama and Clinton? Obama should have had a lot of time to write letters in 8 years.

    1. It’s not about the letter it’s about the killing of innocent young people. The question is: Is it more important for men to own AR-15’s or to prevent innocent mostly young people from being killed by an assault weapon specifically designed to kill or seriously wound people?

      1. The generic letter read, “I have no higher obligation than to protect the safety of America…”

        Enacting sensible gun laws would not be “undermining our Second Amendment rights,” as he fears.

    2. Senator Clinton responded to my students and me with a personal letter after 9/11.

      President Clinton responded to my class and me with a personal letter during his second term.

      I called my state representative after the Las Vegas shooting and he visited my home.

      No form letters.

    3. We didn’t need to post to Clinton nor Obama because they HAD America under control – unlike this odious scam artist who lacks any edge of empathy, not to mention intelligence, dignity, or integrity.

  5. In yesterday’s speech by the president (I tuned in during the middle) he talked about support and love and and promised to do “everything we can” to protect our children. Then he said he wanted to speak directly to the children of the nation. What did he tell them? “We love you. We care about you. There are people who love you very dearly. And we will protect you.” He asked them to turn to a parent, teacher, religious leader, policeman if they see something that worries them. That was a good point. He read a passage from the Bible. None of that talk sounded like him. Nor did it sound at all sincere. A verbal form letter with NO mention of guns.

  6. Writing the White House is disappointing and unfortunately of no use. Neither was the President’s blank statement crafted by his obedient staff yesterday, and then mouthing it with absolutely no emotion or feeling. But, voting is. Early voting in the Texas Primary begins next Tuesday and Election Day is March 6th, but check when it is in your district. It’s a better way to guarantee changes in revising unsafe gun laws. Let your voices be heard at the polls for the your children, grandchildren and our future generations. We’re all affected by unsafe gun laws in our country. Let’s be vigilant about changing them because enough is enough.

  7. Very good article. I too have written my representatives and find they select a key word in my letter and then send the appropriate form letter promoting the very thinking I am complaining about. I send letters to the editor of my local newspaper and feel that all they do is make me feel better. I think the only control we may have now over our congressmen is voting them out—Justageezer.com.

  8. The prevalance of mass shootings in this country, and especially ones that involve schools, breaks my heart. But at the same time, each incident fails to surprise or shock me anymore. A cousin of mine from the UK sent me a message after the Vegas shooting, expressing condolences and asking me, “why again???” I responded that it was business as usual in the USA. I personally know 2 families who lost loved ones in that massacre. If gunning down FIRST GRADERS (Sandyhook) does not affect change in our laws then we are morally lost as a country when it comes to this issue. Blame it on the radicalization of the NRA, and the greed of our (mostly) Republican representatives. Thank you for writing about this, Erin.

    1. Elaine, like you, I was shocked there was not a national call for gun sense regulation after the murder of so many little children and their teachers in their classrooms. I can’t use this forum as an outlet for what I feel because I don’t think many would understand the depth of my sorrow.

  9. The prevalance of mass shootings in this country, and especially ones that involve schools, breaks my heart. But at the same time, each incident fails to surprise or shock me anymore. A cousin of mine from the UK sent me a message after the Vegas shooting, expressing condolences and asking me, “why again???” I responded that it was business as usual in the USA. I personally know 2 families who lost loved ones in that massacre. If gunning down FIRST GRADERS (Sandyhook) does not affect change in our laws then we are morally lost as a country when it comes to this issue. Blame it on the radicalization of the NRA, and the greed of our (mostly) Republican representatives. Thank you for writing about this, Erin.

  10. What we get is smoke and mirrors and bread and circuses. The political process isn’t about ‘we the people’. It’s all about money and being on the top of the food chain. It’s beyond disgusting when kids can’t even go to school and feel safe anymore. But what I don’t get is why people keep voting in the sharks and hustlers. Party politics suck. It does nothing but serve to keep people divided and weak. And boy do the politicians know that and work it against us. Kids are paying for the voting generations lack of doing anything to make a change. And that’s damn sad!

  11. Erin, Thank you for writing about this. I feel your frustration. I haven’t heard a single good argument for why people should have assault weapons. I sign petitions to no avail. It’s a sorry state of affairs. The only thing I can do is show up and vote. We need to vote these bastards out of office!

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