Excerpt: 'Awearness'

Read an excerpt of Kenneth Cole's new book on social change.

Nov. 20, 2008 — -- Designer Kenneth Cole has edited a book on global issues, including poverty, genocide and climate change. "Awearness: Inspiring Stories About How to Make a Difference" is a collection of 86 stories and conversations by 90 individuals who were inspired to do their part to bring about social change.

Read an excerpt of the book below and click here to check out more books in the "GMA" library.

Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner's struggle to overcome homelessness was the subject of the 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness, based on his memoir by the same name. Now the owner and CEO of Christopher Gardner International Holdings and a highly successful stockbroker and entrepreneur, he is also a committed philanthropist and speaker, working with a number of organizations to help the homeless, including Glide Memorial Church and CARA, among others. glide.org; thecaraprogram.org.

I am living proof that a few small decisions, mixed with some bad luck and bad timing, can mean the difference between having a home to sleep in at night and being homeless. In the early 1980s I was a single parent caring for my son, Chris, Jr., in San Francisco. I was employed, working hard, and doing all I could to care for my child, but like so many people I slipped through the cracks. We lost our rental apartment and my son and I had no choice but to sleep in the park or sometimes a locked public bathroom. Then I learned about Glide Memorial Church and Reverend Cecil Williams, who runs its shelter, kitchen, health-care services, job training center, and other resources for the poor and disenfranchised. He saved our lives. I know for sure there wouldn't be a Chris Gardner today if there wasn't a Reverend Williams back then. Glide is truly an oasis in a desert of hopelessness, a place where old, destructive ways are thrown out and new ones created. They serve over a million meals a year and provide the services that get people back on their feet.

I live in Chicago now, where I work with the CARA program, which assists the homeless and at-risk populations with comprehensive job training and placement. I believe in CARA's philosophy of second chances and helping people who are trying to help themselves by giving them the necessary tools and skills. In fact, one of my most trusted employees is a graduate of CARA.

I never could have imagined that telling my story in the book and movie The Pursuit of Happyness would help others. I am humbled that people all over the world write to tell me that I've given them hope. And I'm proud to have put a face on homelessness—and it's not the face of a drug addict or a convict. It's the face of a workingman who lost everything except the will to survive, succeed, and make a better life for his children. It is estimated that twelve percent of the homeless population in the United States is employed; in some communities that estimate is as high as 30 percent. There is often a fine line between getting by and not having anything.

While it's important to make donations to reputable organizations like Glide, CARA, and others I support such as HELP USA, Covenant House, and Common Ground, I try to give my time and reach out to others so they become involved too. I do everything from speaking at events for Glide, attending counseling sessions, and donating clothes and shoes. A little goes a long way with people who have nothing. When I'm traveling, I try to see if I can make contact with a local church or shelter. I know that sometimes just shaking a man's hand or hugging a child, telling them that they will make it, is the push they need to get through the day. It doesn't cost a dime or take any time to acknowledge them and make them feel human. I try to give back however I can, because I was fortunate enough to receive help when I desperately needed it.


Today Chris Gardner is involved with homelessness initiatives assisting families to stay intact, and assisting homeless men and women who are employed but still can't get by. He helped fund a $50 million project that created low-income housing and opportunities for employment in the notoriously poor Tenderloin area of San Francisco, where he was once homeless.

Jacqueline Murekatete

A survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi genocide, Jacqueline Murekatete is the founder and director of Jacqueline's Human Rights Corner, a genocide-prevention education program under the umbrella of Miracle Corners of the World, a New York–based nonprofit organization. miraclecorners.org/programs_partner_jacqueline

What does a young girl do when her innocence is taken away, her whole world is changed, and she finds herself in an environment in which she is told that she is no longer a human being, a child, but an enemy of the state, a cockroach needing to be exterminated? What does a young girl do when her childhood is shattered, her parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, friends murdered by their neighbors, and she finds herself in an environment in which more than a million innocent men, women, and children are murdered simply because of their ethnicity?

When I was just nine years old, in 1994, the Tutsi genocide in my country exposed me to horrors that no child or adult should ever have to see. During the approximately 100 days of Tutsi massacres, I was forced to watch as men, women, and children were dragged down the streets on their way to be murdered, to listen to the screams of toddlers and infants whose arms or legs had been hacked off with machetes, and to get up not knowing whether I would live to see the next day. The genocide in my country exposed me firsthand to the worst of man's inhumanity toward man, and the worst human-rights violation that there is—the violation of every man's basic right to exist. My life would never be the same again.

The period after the genocide was a very difficult one, as I struggled to understand what had happened in my country. I spent many days crying for the parents, six siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends whom I would never see again, and at night I was haunted by nightmares. For six years after the genocide I found no words to express the horrors that had occurred in my country, and I was unable to talk about how my family had died. After arriving in the United States at the end of 1995, I kept to myself, and spoke very vaguely about my previous life in Rwanda to my new classmates and friends.The turning point for me, the moment when I made the transition from victim to activist, came at the beginning of high school. I began learning about the Holocaust and how other countries had gone through genocides. I was struck by the similarities between these genocides and the one in my country, and I was appalled to learn that the silence and indifference displayed by the international community as my people were being massacred was the same type of silence and indifference that had been the response to other genocides, before Rwanda.

After I learned about the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian genocide, and the Bosnian genocide, it became clear to me that what had happened in Rwanda in 1994 was not unique to Rwanda, that genocide had happened before and could happen anywhere. I realized it was a cycle that would continue to repeat itself for as long as we permitted it by our silence, indifference, and lack of actions to prevent it. Genocide can be prevented, but it requires the collective effort of all human beings around the world.

And so, in 2001, after listening to the experiences of David Gewirtzman, a Holocaust survivor who has since become a good friend and mentor to me, I made the decision to create awareness about the genocide in my country. I knew that sharing my experience and speaking out would not be easy, but that it was work that had to be done.

One important thing that people often fail to realize about the work of genocide prevention and human rights is that while we are often overwhelmed by the number and variety of human-rights violations around the world, and while we often feel paralyzed by the enormity of it all, all it takes to end major violations and to have a positive impact on the world is the hard work, determination, and efforts of ordinary individuals who use ordinary resources like their voices and time.

When I began my activism in genocide prevention and human rights, I did not know that I, a girl of sixteen, could make a difference. But as a result of the more than 300 presentations I have delivered in the past seven years, my genocide-prevention education work has been embraced by hundreds of U.S.–based schools, universities, and faith-based communities, and by diverse groups of people all over the world. As a result of my decision to make a positive impact on the world, others have followed my lead, investing their resources in my work and joining me to educate people, young people in particular, as to how to transform hate and achieve personal goals in ways that foster peaceful coexistence among all human beings. My team has grown to include students, global leaders, entertainers, educators, and noteworthy Holocaust/genocide scholars and human-rights activists worldwide.

There is no doubt that many significant improvements have been made in genocide prevention. More than ever before, human beings are realizing how interdependent we are and are finally waking up to the fact that a more peaceful world can be achieved only through the collective efforts of individuals. And whether change is institutional, such as the creation of the UN's Office of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide or of an international-relations concept like the Responsibility to Protect (both of which were conceived in an effort to determine the best way to intervene and deliver aid to people in grave conflicts around the world), or change is effected by the involvement of young people in student anti-genocide organizations and clubs like STAND or the Genocide Intervention Network, I and other human-rights activists know that progress is being made, that our time and daily efforts are not being wasted.

Unfortunately, with hate crimes continuing to take place in the United States, child soldiering and crimes against humanity in northern Uganda and Congo, and religiously and ethnically motivated violence in the Middle East and the Balkans, we also know that our work is anything but done. Even in the twenty-first century, genocide or the intent of governments to commit genocide remains a reality that we cannot afford to ignore, as the current situation in Darfur illustrates. The work of genocide-prevention education is more necessary than ever.

I remain optimistic that a world without genocide is possible. Genocide is not a crime that arises in a vacuum or happens overnight, as I often tell my audiences. There are warnings, and thus there are always opportunities for us to intervene, by fighting the conditions that allow genocide to take place. Before being systematically murdered, a group is usually victimized by state-sanctioned discrimination, prejudice, dehumanization, and individual murders, with impunity for the murderers. This was the case for Rwandan Tutsis before the genocide in 1994, as it was the case for the Jewish people before the Holocaust and for other victims of genocide before Rwanda.

Therefore, in seeking to create a world without genocide, we must look out for these conditions, these warnings, in our own countries and in the world at large. We must speak out against these injustices whenever and wherever we identify them, and every day each and every one of us must work to create more equitable, democratic, and tolerant societies around the world. Only by doing this can we really hope to transform the "never again" said after the Holocaust from promise into practice, from hope into reality.


There exist numerous things that each of us can do to help advance the work of genocide prevention and human rights. As an individual and a citizen of any country, make a daily effort to be aware of the various injustices and major human rights violations that go on in our world. Be aware of the precedents of genocide, such as state-sanctioned discrimination, dehumanization of certain groups of people, racism, anti-Semitism, and hate, among other precedents. And, aware of these injustices, make an effort to mobilize others and begin a collective effort to fight these things, whether in your school, community, or in a distant country.


Armenian Genocide (1915–1923) caused 1.5 million deaths.

The Holocaust

(1933–1945) caused the deaths of an estimated 6 million Jews, at least 1.5 million non-Jewish Polish citizens, 200,000 individuals with mental or physical disabilities, approximately 10,000 homosexuals, and 20,000 Roma or Gypsies.

Cambodian Genocide

(1975–1979) The Khmer Rouge killed approximately 2 million people.

The Rwandan Genocide (April–July 1994) caused more than 1 million deaths.

The Darfur Conflict

(2003–present) has caused an estimated 400,000 deaths to date.

The Srebrenica Massacre

(July 1995) Serbian forces killed an estimated 8,000 Muslims in Bosnia.


In 2005 the World Summit adopted the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, agreeing that when crimes against humanity are committed and a state is unable or unwilling to protect its people, the international community through the UN has an obligation to intervene.

Lauren Bush

Lauren Bush

Former model, activist, and presidential niece Lauren Bush is an honorary spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme. She created the FEED bag with the idea that a reusable bag can feed the world. feedprojects.org; wfp.org

From the time I was young, the idea of giving back and serving others has been a very important theme in my life. I've learned that it's about jumping in and doing it. My work as an honorary spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) started when I was in college. They were looking for a young spokesperson who could help rally students in the fight against world hunger. The first part of my education involved a trip with the WFP to see their operations in Guatemala firsthand. Despite its relative proximity to the United States, Guatemala is a vastly different world. Many people live in rural, mountainous villages where steep hills make it difficult to farm sustainably. As a result, most of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition. When I visited the schools, I noticed that the children were all genuinely excited to be there. I then found out that one of the reasons for their attendance was the free daily lunch provided by WFP. That was the moment when I fell in love with WFP's School Feeding Program, and realized how powerful food can be in encouraging education and getting these kids into school and out of the poverty cycle. This school lunch is sometimes the only meal these kids will receive all day, and it is a wonderful incentive for kids to get even a primary school education.

Food, water, shelter, and schooling are top priorities, even if many of us take them for granted. But in developing countries, education falls somewhere near the bottom of the list. In many developing countries I visited, women suffered the most from their impoverished situations. However, girls who attend school and receive even the most basic education are more likely to have less children; and as a result, their children are better fed, educated, and cared for. Essentially, educating women improves the next generation's chances of escaping poverty. The School Feeding Program is an incentive for boys and girls alike to attend school, and has helped improve attendance rates up to ninety-three percent. While the locals build land terraces to make farming easier, the WFP provides food aid. This frees people to do community planning and set up a proper farm system. It's not a quick fix for a situation that's just going to perpetuate itself, but a process toward self-sufficiency.

World hunger is a massive, seemingly intangible issue, but in fact it kills more people than AIDS, malaria, and TB combined. Even though there is enough food in the world to feed everyone, there are such inequities in the food systems in our backyards and abroad. Figuring out a solution to these issues is a huge undertaking, but an important one. If you're sick, access to medication is ineffective if you are undernourished. And if you do have food, but that food is not healthy, then there are also huge health consequences. Food issues really intersect with everything in human life.

After traveling with the WFP, I would come home inspired by the people I had met and want to make a more tangible difference in their lives. In 2005 I conceptualized a reusable shopping bag that would support WFP's School Feeding Program. Designing the FEED 1 bag was a fun way to combine my love for design with my passion to help fight world hunger. Initially, I was on my own, but then I partnered with Ellen Gustafson, whom I met at the UN. Together we started FEED Projects, a small company with a mission of creating good products that feed the world. Since April 2007 we have fed 240,000 children in school for a year. Each FEED 1 bag purchased feeds one child in school for a year. The FEED bag allows consumers to give in a way that is measurable and makes a direct impact on kids' lives around the world. The newest creation is the FEED 100 bag. Through the sale of this reusable grocery bag, we are encouraging the use of reusable bags instead of plastic, as well as giving 100 school meals to kids in Rwanda.

I always try to encourage young people to incorporate their humanitarian goodwill with their talents and passions on a daily basis to create change. Get involved locally and globally on your campus or in your neighborhood. My younger sister Ashley, for exam¬ple, has started the first Student FEED Club at her school—they host lectures, have bake sales to benefit WFP, and volunteer at soup kitchens. Everyone can do their part on a daily basis. It's up to us, as citizens of the world, to find innovative solutions.


More than 850 million people around the world are unable to meet their basic nutritional needs, causing the deaths of more than 9 million people each year. Despite the billions of dollars in food relief given annually to areas in need by rich governments, malnutrition continues to be one of our most critical international health issues.



Orthodox Jewish reggae rapper Matisyahu challenges people to break boundaries and embrace the unconventional with his unique fusion of music and religion. He is currently launching his foundation Something From Nothing to encourage kids in the arts. matismusic.com

Before I became religious, I remember playing some of my music for a record company. In one song, I made a reference to slavery, to which the A&R responded, "I guess that's cool...but who wants to hear a white Jewish kid rap about slavery?" He was ultimately right, especially if you look at Jews in the world today without having the historical perspective. But the truth is that Jews were the original people to break out of slavery, overthrowing the power in Egypt and leaving to start their own nation.

I've always been attracted to realness. So for me, it's never been a question as to whether or not I should deny myself and make my identity less extreme. As I've changed, so have my clothes, but none of it has been as a result of trying to conform. What was always important was to find my true identity and allow my music to stem from there. That's not to say I wasn't afraid to make different decisions, but because I believed in the music, I knew that people would embrace it. As it turned out, my differences worked to my advantage. Much of the initial press I received was based on having the surprise element of being a guy who looked a certain way, but then does this music. It's a classic example of "don't judge a book by its cover." The music was striking a chord with people and breaking down barriers.

In my religion, there's a law called tzedakah where you're supposed to give ten to twenty percent of the money you make to charity. And as I grew up, my parents, who are secular, taught me that doing something meaningful with our lives and dedicating our lives to helping in some way—whether by donating money or spending a day working with people—was the most important thing. The God thing is up for grabs, whether it's real or not real, but the true thing a person can do with their life is to help another person. The only way I could really do this mitzvah and feel good about it was to start my own program. My foundation Something From Nothing helps kids that have some talent, whether it's developed or not, and some inner spiritual turmoil to create their own music and arts. Using the connections I make in the arts industry, I am able to call on everyone from filmmakers to guitar players and drummers to help develop the artistic talents of these children.

To have the ability to really change the world and affect it in a positive way is such an amazing thing. I just hope my life is centered around that and centered around doing good things. There's another concept in Hebrew called tikkum olam, which literally means "fixing of the world." The world is cracked. God created the world with this essential rift, which exists in God, and the job of humans is to somehow fix it, fix the world, and, in a sense, fix God. The most that people can do is spiritual work. Don't be afraid to feel the madness, the insanity, the darkness of this world. Because it can be so overwhelming, people often distract themselves with their own lives. Before you write a check to some foundation, you have to open yourself up to knowing what's going on. From there, turn on the news and pay attention to what's happening, whether it's a fire somewhere or someone being killed, or fighting going on in Crown Heights between blacks and Jews. Whatever it is, see it, hear it, feel it, and act from there.


In observance of the Jewish Sabbath, Matisyahu refrains from holding performances on Friday nights. Although it is commonly observed on Saturdays, the "day of rest" is observed from sunset on Friday until three stars appear in the sky the following night. On a certain, rare Friday evening in 2007, when he was on a tour in Fairbanks, Alaska, the sun did not set until 2 a.m. locally. Therefore, he was allowed to put on a show.

Matisyahu has performed concerts that benefit the homeless, AIDS awareness, and the crisis in Darfur.

Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray

Television host and best-selling author Rachael Ray launched Yum-o! in 2006. The nonprofit organization empowers kids and their families to develop healthy relationships with food and cooking by teaching families to cook, feeding hungry children, and funding cooking education and scholarships. yum-o.org

When I congratulated Oprah on her South African schools, she said, "You have to speak to people about what's important to you." Food has always kept me grounded. Nothing makes me feel better than a bowl of something I've made. So when I finally had the money to give back, that's where my brain went first: I created Yum-o!, an organization to help families get away from the powdered-packet food and arm them with affordable, yummy recipes for whole food living.

My grandfather grew all of his food and was a great chef. He worked fourteen-hour days as a stonemason before he'd come home and tend his garden at night. My mom was an immigrant kid, but to hear her tell stories about being a little girl, you'd think she was a princess in a castle somewhere instead of at a home with outdoor toilets. As I grew up, I didn't know what powdered mac and cheese, Doritos, or Pop Tarts looked like until I went to school and saw everybody else eating them. Everything I ate had anchovies, squid, and tons of garlic—the only added fat in our house was olive oil. We'd see what people were buying from the grocery store—you know, four for a dollar for this and that—and think, "Geez, you could buy one chicken for the same amount as any of these prepared or frozen foods, and make two or three great meals out of it."

Yum-o!'s mission has three parts: cook, feed, and fund. Through our website, we educate kids and families about food and cooking. We are also partnering with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint venture of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, to help fight childhood obesity and inspire students to make lifelong healthy eating decisions. There's something so empowering about taking a group of ingredients, and in just a short amount of time, turning it into something that appeals to all five of your senses. To help feed hungry kids, we take some of our money and give it to organizations such as Share Our Strength and grassroots organizations dedicated to feeding hungry children coast to coast. That's very important to me—to try to eliminate hunger among American children in my lifetime. It should be an embarrassment to every American that any one child would go hungry in a country of plenty. We also award scholarships to kids who want to go into cooking or some food-related field as a way to make a living. But most importantly, Yum-o! is an interactive community where people can connect with each other by sharing their favorite recipes and stories about their friends, families, and communities.

One of the greatest ways of getting kids to eat healthier is to involve them in the process of cooking. The Yum-o! website is a great place to start: Kids and parents can find recipes for cooks of all ages, tips for getting started in the kitchen, and ideas for getting involved when it comes to food in their schools and communities—all in one place.

In the end, a movement like this really lives and dies with the kids. That's what keeps me motivated: seeing the number of children who get involved in cooking and what it in turn will do not only for their health issues, but their self-esteem as well. And knowing that good food really does change lives.


According to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, about 25 million kids (ages two to nineteen) in the U.S. are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.

(caption p. 223)Rachael chats with a student about the importance of eating a well-balanced lunch.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 12 million children either go hungry or are at risk of hunger because of food insecurity.

(caption p. 224)Operation Frontline, a collaborative effort between Yum-o!, Food Network, City Harvest, and Share Our Strength.

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady and her husband, Jim Brady, have lobbied extensively for stronger gun-control laws and to reduce gun violence through education, research, and legal advocacy. bradycampaign.org; millionmommarch.org; protesteasyguns.org

When President Ronald Reagan named my husband White House Press Sec- retary in 1981, it was a dream come true. We had a new baby, and all of a sudden, life was sort of perfect. Three months after Reagan had taken office, I was at home with our two-year-old son, Scott, watching a soap opera. The last thing you think when your husband goes off to work is that the day will end with him being involved in a presidential assassination attempt. Suddenly, I was being whisked to a hospital not knowing whether Jim was going to live or die from a gunshot wound. It was as if I'd become part of a soap opera myself. At one point, three networks read his obituary. They'd gotten it wrong. That even sounds like a soap opera.

In 1982, when he finally came home, the reality of how severe his injury was and how much care he needed set in. He had no use of his left arm or left leg. In 1983 I got a call from Handgun Control asking me if I'd get involved in a bill that was out in California. I'd become familiar with gun legislation in the early 1970s, working with a congressman on a bill to ban Saturday night specials, cheap guns often used for crime. I hesitated because I had so much on my plate between taking care of Jim and Scott. One day, on a visit to Jim's parents in Illinois, we got into a car to go swimming with friends. Scott, who was about four, jumped into the seat with me and found a little toy gun. I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about guns and told him to never point a gun at anyone. Then I realized it was a real gun—a Saturday night special—and it was loaded. I was livid. The man who owned it apologized, explaining that he needed it for self-protection. A few days later, I was watching the nightly news and I learned that the National Rifle Association had introduced a bill to do away with the 1968 Gun Control Act, which laid down guidelines saying nobody who is a fugitive, a felon, an illegal alien, or adjudicated mentally ill could own a gun. That was it. I went to the phone, called the NRA, and said, "My name is Sarah Brady, and I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to put you out of business." The next day, I called Handgun Control (which was later renamed the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence) and said, "What can I do to help?"

We believed everyone needed a background check and waiting period in order to get a gun license. That was the beginning of the Brady Bill, which went on for seven years. We did not want to take away anybody's right to defend him or herself. We just wanted to keep guns out of the wrong hands and to educate people to the fact that gun ownership requires responsibility. During that time, we developed an amazing team of people and fought like David versus Goliath. We had very little money and couldn't run ads like the NRA did, but we had a wonderful press person to do press conferences and take advantage of free advertising. I started lobbying personally, making speeches all across the country, reaching out to all the police groups and getting their support. We knew we could not fight by ourselves. I worked in politics all my life and knew coalitions were the key. We got the support of almost every respectable organization you can imagine: the nurses, the teachers, the PTA, the National U.S. Conference of Mayors, and every major church in the country. Everywhere we'd go, we'd make sure we met with editorial boards of newspapers. Little by little, we grew. It was the most exhilarating work ever.

The Brady Law went into effect in 1994 and reduced gun violence tremendously, stopping the sale of more than 1.4 million guns around the country. The next year, we passed the Assault Weapons Ban. But that law expired in 2004. So, they're back on the market again. Are Jim and I motivated? Do we do as much as we can? Yes. My heart aches because I want to get out there more. Volunteerism is so important. You hear the stories of people whose lives have been totally shattered, how it can happen to anyone, anytime, anyplace. It's not just gangs or criminals. We're talking about being on a safe college campus or at a school. And there are so many things that can be done: You can join your local Million Mom March chapter to help build a coalition to educate the public and pass sensible gun laws. You can help organize a local "lie- in" to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban on the April 16 anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. And you can create a short video for the Brady Campaign and the MMM at www.vidivoice.com—even just using your cell phone—to add your feelings and experiences with gun violence to a growing list of people who want change.

Gun Lobby Spending; David Versus Goliath


Gun Control: $60,800

Gun rights: $1,959,407


Gun Control: $90,100

Gun rights: $3,024,231


Gun Control: $230,000

Gun rights: $3,870,587


Gun Control: $1,335,400

Gun rights: $4,142,400

The ratio of money spent lobbying politicians by gun rights groups to gun control groups in 2006: 33:1.


1791 The second amendment under the Bill of rights is ratified.

1837 Georgia bans handguns, but the law is ruled unconstitutional.

1927 Congress bans the mailing of concealable weapons.

1934 The national Firearms act is introduced, regulating automatic guns.

1938 The Federal Firearms act requires licenses for gun dealers and registration records for purchasers.

1968 The Gun Control act bans minors, any convicted criminals of non-white-collar crimes, the mentally ill, and drug users from purchasing firearms.

1977 Washington D.C. passes its anti-handgun law.

1986 "Cop killer" bullets, capable of penetrating bullet-proof clothing, are banned.

1994 The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention act enacts background checks and a handgun purchase waiting period.

1994 The Violent Crime Control and Law enforcement act bans the sale, manufacture, and possession of several kinds of assault weapons.

1997 The supreme Court overturns the background check requirement of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention act.

1999 a bill requiring trigger locks on newly manufactured handguns and extended waiting period and background checks is passed.

2008 The Supreme Court strikes down Washington D.C.'s ban on handguns.