Why Haven’t Foundations Responded to the Newtown Shootings? Guest Post by Vince Stehle
As a nation, we have seen mass shootings many times over the years. According to Mother Jones Magazine, there have been more than 60 mass shootings in the past 30 years and more than 150 deaths this year alone. But the horrific bloodbath at Sandy Hook Elementary School has triggered a response that feels fundamentally different from all previous attacks – and the distinction may be that it has occurred at a time when the full weight of social media can now be felt.
On Facebook and via Twitter and in petitions from MoveOn, Change.org and Care2.com, there has been a huge outcry in social media that something must be done to stop this senseless carnage. And this sentiment can no longer be dismissed or ignored by a political culture of conventional wisdom that says it is impossible to enact sensible regulations of guns and ammunition.
On a personal note, I come from a small town in Western Pennsylvania, where “people cling to their guns” as President Obama clumsily stated in the 2008 campaign. Indeed, my great, great grandfather Thomas Stehle came to this country as a gunsmith in the 1840s, so I understand how deeply rooted guns are for many people. But the reality that has struck home in the wake of the Newtown school shooting is this: most people cling to their children even more dearly than they cling to their guns.
Just about every aspect of American life has been represented in our collective grief: media, politics, entertainment and sports have all found a way to call attention to the tragedy. But American philanthropy has been largely absent and strangely silent.
Every year, the philanthropic sector drifts into its holiday hibernation early and goes practically dark until the New Year. And this year seems no different.
Foundations need to develop a capacity to respond more quickly and aggressively to the great challenges of our day. Average citizens are now able to assemble immediately in massive numbers to demand action and to make financial contributions to secure those actions.
If foundations don’t create a mechanism to respond to major threats and opportunities in a more timely fashion, they run the risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant.