Last month, after one of our first training camp practices, we had Rock the Vote come in and talk to our team and staff. The group was great. Afterward, seven of our players, two of our assistant coaches, and a dozen staff members registered on the spot.
No one asked their political affiliation, or whom they were voting for. That wasn’t the point. Rather, the message was this: You’ve got a voice. Why not use it?
I voted for the first time in 1984, back when I was a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Arizona. I was fortunate. My parents were politically engaged. I’d seen the world and was accustomed to policy discussions at the dinner table. Voting didn’t seem foreign, or complicated. It was just what you did once you were old enough.
This fall, however, voting feels more important than ever. When I sent in my ballot recently—by mail to my home city of San Diego—I did so with a heavy heart. I love this country and have lived here most of my life. But, like many on both sides of the aisle, I don’t like what’s happening to it right now. I don’t like the direction we’re heading. And I can’t stand the political climate that’s been created.
Casting a vote allows all of us to have a say in where our country is heading. Among the many issues that matter to me, one stands out in particular: gun safety. I lost my father to gun violence, and I’m disheartened and disgusted by the ceaseless cycle of mass shootings. Last March, I participated in a town hall at Newark Memorial High in California alongside Matt Deitsch. He’s the older brother of one of the Parkland survivors—a remarkable young man who suspended his college studies to travel the country, educating people about gun violence and registering new voters. He’s helped lead the ‘March For Our Lives’ movement, teaming with other young people who’ve literally been raised amid school shootings. Because of people like Matt, I now have hope that our gun laws can change. They’ll have to if an entire generation of young voters demands change at the federal level. This is the power of the vote. If enough people want change, it can happen.
Of course, not everyone’s supportive. When we played in Utah earlier this season, a heckler kept yelling, “What about gun control Kerr?” during the game (It was weird more than anything; what did that even mean?). And I purposely don’t read the responses to my Twitter feed. But that’s okay. The fact is, the vast majority of people in this country want universal background checks—more than 90% in fact. Over 80% support banning bump stocks, the mechanisms used to turn a semi automatic weapon into an automatic one. The lunatic who shot over 500 people and killed 58 in Las Vegas used a bump stock. Over 70% of Americans believe high-capacity magazines—which are used in almost every mass shooting in this country—should be banned. These numbers aren’t partisan. They reflect Democrats and Republicans alike.
It’s common sense that such measures—along with required gun safety training for anyone buying a gun—are desperately needed. And yet our federal government has done nothing. It’s no secret why: just look at who’s funded by the NRA. Until we are represented by people in office who are willing to fight for us, the people—the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe in major changes to gun laws and regulations—more and more innocent people will die. Thoughts and prayers will never suffice.
Gun regulation is my flashpoint topic. It doesn’t have to be yours. And that’s the message I hope to pass along: As long as there’s at least one issue you care about—campaign finance reform, climate change, healthcare, taxes, immigration—you have a reason to vote. I’ve read that over 100 million Americans plan on skipping the polls on Tuesday. That’s their right. But if you don’t vote, then you can't complain.
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, focus just on the issues that matter to you. Do some research and make an informed decision. It is the least we can do, considering people fought, and in many cases gave their lives, for our right to do this.
In 16 states, including California, you don’t even need to have already registered. You can check this list, sign up Tuesday, and cast your ballot.
To those who think one vote won’t make a difference, I’d counter that it’s the concept of voting and getting people you know to vote that matters. Then all of a sudden, the numbers add up to where you can make a difference. It feels like there is a groundswell this year. Let’s add to it.
Finally, if you’re wondering why a basketball coach is talking to you about this, that’s fair. I know, stick to sports, shut up and dribble and all that. But I’m not writing this as a coach. I’m writing as a father and a concerned citizen. We all have a platform these days. We should use it.