On Monday my chapter of the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence ( also affiliated with Protect Minnesota) organized and held a bell ringing in memory of the 9 victims of the Charleston Mother Emanuel church shooting. It was well attended and very powerful. There were 3 local clergy from different faith persuasions giving remarks as well as the pastor of the local AME church where we held the event. Another community activist involved in the community of color also made remarks. As is our tradition, we had 9 people from those gathered come to the front of the church and hold a photo of each of the 9 victims. When they said their names, our bell was rung. We finished by ringing the bell for all other victims and survivors and joined in a hopeful song.
We are numb in this country. We hardly know how to respond any more to these kinds of shootings. But this one seemed different. 9 people were targeted because of the color of their skin. I have not seen this much activity on-line, on social media, in the American media, in media from around the world in events held, in comments made- ever since I have been involved in the issue of gun violence prevention. It has stunned me. People want to talk about it. A friend stopped me in the grocery store. She wanted to talk about it. People saw me on TV as I was interviewed about the bell ringing. The public is outraged and numb.
We have been numbed down and dumbed down after years of these kind of shootings. But this time, things are happening. In a surprise move, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina made an unexpected statement yesterday with her support for taking down the confederate flag from the Capitol area. She was given accolades. I ask what took so long? Black Americans have had to endure the insult of the flag that represents so much historical pain and suffering for too many years. It’s inexcusable. And, what’s worse, politicians have supported it- some out of ignorance, some say it’s out of respect for history ( which ignores a big chunk of that history) some out of fear of those on the far right who seem to be still fighting the Civil War.
(As an aside, we need to also understand that Governor Haley has signed some of the country’s weakest gun laws. As a result South Carolina has among the country’s highest number of gun deaths.)
Along with removing the Confederate flag, Governor Hailey should also be looking at some changes to her state’s gun laws.
Regarding the Confederate flag, though, quickly Walmart, Sears, Amazon and now Ebay are removing any confederate stuff from their stores or on-line site. Guns, not so much. They will still sell guns- the instrument of the terror and White Supremacist act that occurred last week in Charleston. Shouldn’t we wonder why they were selling this stuff in the first place? Why did it take a heinous race based shooting to begin a national discussion that should have happened long ago?
What I want to know is whether those same items representing the Confederacy will still be sold at gun shows across the country? Will we still see photos of guys like this, strutting around with the hateful flag plus their AR-15s? How offensive can you get? Or remember the prom goers posing for a photo with their guns and that flag? Or this “good guy” with a gun who pulled his gun out and pointed it at young kids who made fun of the Confederate flag image on his truck?
Offensive stuff for sure.
It’s been a week now. And the country has been reeling with the uproar caused by this shooting. The Charleston community has reacted with grace and peacefully, even using the word forgiveness and sometimes hope. That is what we heard at our bell ringing event on Monday.
Maybe this time there is hope. Adam Gopnik wrote this for the New Yorker:
Against this, of course, was the suggestion, by a board member of the National Rifle Association, that responsibility for the massacre lay with the clergyman within the church, for opposing laws that would allow “concealed carry” in places of worship. Had he not taken that stand, the argument runs, there would have been a pitched gun battle in the church—a better thing, apparently, even though it would have only fulfilled the gunman’s mad fantasies of race war. Pitched gun battles in a Charleston church or a Connecticut elementary school, of the sort that some in the N.R.A. apparently dream of, would more likely be horrific blood baths, with crossfire and injured bystanders, not some well-tuned and well-timed action-movie scenario.
The reason that we have gun massacres in numbers wildly out of proportion to any other rich country is because we have too many guns. When gun massacres have happened elsewhere—as they sometimes have, in Canada and Scotland and Australia and elsewhere—the common-sense response has been to change the laws, and, almost always, after the laws are changed the massacres end. In the United States, they continue. It seems like a good bet that changing the law here would change that.
In the areas of gun crime where there has been extended study, we know for certain that serious gun control works to end, or at least limit, gun violence. It is as robust a correlation as any in the social sciences, as sure a thing, as I’ve written before, as knowing that antibiotics act to limit and end infections. You go looking for sane counterarguments in favor of overarmed America and find that none exist. Guns don’t protect anyone from anything. Their presence simply increases the odds of domestic tragedy, of a domestic altercation turning into a homicide (or a suicide). The data confirms what common sense suggests: not even the most desperately paranoid among us could possibly be perpetually prepared for an actual home invasion—as very rare as such incidents actually are. The fantasy of the armed homeowner bravely repelling the evil armed intruder is just that. The number of justified homicides is overwhelmed by the number of gun tragedies. In 2012, thirteen states, including New Jersey and New York, reported no justifiable homicides at all. Not one. The notion that gun possession could stop, rather than increase, the number of casualties in the home is another fantasy created by violent movies and television programs, and is only possible in them. (Violent crime is dropping under the gun-control regimes in Europe and Canada as well, just as it has in the States. We’re still the only country that has gun massacres so routinely that our leader has to figure out what new thing he can say each time out.)
Gopnik goes on to write about the Confederate flag and why people who still pledge allegiance to it and to their own gun fetishes and fear and paranoia are so dangerous:
Another, parallel claim—what might be called the insurrectionist one—insists that guns are necessary to enforce a constitutional right to threaten and subvert the duly elected government as gun owners might see fit. This is a view that one Abraham Lincoln rather fiercely resisted, and put an end to in the eighteen-sixties. Amid the arguments over the Confederate battle flag flying in Charleston, the one that insists that the flag represents, above all, an effort to make slavery a permanent state for black people is probably the most relevant. But it’s also worth remembering that the defeat of the Confederacy involved exactly the defeat of the notion that the threat of insurrection was ever to be regarded as an acceptable political act. As Lincoln said, in his first inaugural, “No government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.” You can’t say you need to have a gun to threaten the government.
Gopnik finishes with things I have written here many times before:
On most public issues, there are two reasonable views, even when one view seems, to put it mildly, cruel—the view, say, that poor people should be left without medical insurance. But on gun control there aren’t. All the facts are in; all the social science is long settled; the constitutional positions are clear, if contested, and the wiser way known and shared by mankind. On one side are facts, truth, and common sense. On the other, an obsession with dark fantasies of individual autonomy and power—the sheer fetishistic thrill of owning lethal weapons. On one side is the sanity and common sense shared by the entire world; on the other, murder and madness and a strange ongoing American mania. If we don’t change, then, well—it will happen again, again. And then again.
Will we choose sanity and common sense or will we choose madness?
Who is ultimately responsible for dozens of gun lobby sponsored bills advancing not just in Missouri each year but in other conservative legislatures? We are. Who is responsible for the many legislators who remain silent during floor debate, even though their districts suffer the most gun violence in the state? We are.
Who is responsible for a Congress which continually fails to advance policies like universal background checks even though 90 percent of us, including gun owners and NRA members, overwhelmingly support these common sense measures? We are.
Who is responsible for re-electing a Congress which ignores majority opinion in favor of standing with the gun lobby? We are. Who is responsible for the myth that one can’t get elected if they stand up to the profiteering of gun manufacturers? We are.
In our silence, we have forgotten that we hold the power to save lives.
Our power is our vote — the power that the majority of Americans don’t utilize unless it’s a sexy presidential election year. Most Americans have no clue who represents them in state houses (where most gun laws are being passed) or even in Congress, which is exactly how the NRA wants it. On top of that, the NRA knows exactly who votes and who doesn’t because voting records are public and available to anyone. (…)
Our silence on election days is increasing the carnage and suffering. We cannot afford more silence. Please help.
Silence is killing us.
Don’t be silent. Don’t be numb. Wake up. Stand up. Raise your voices. Make noise so your elected leaders hear you. Demand that they listen to the voices of reason whose concern is for the victims.
We have been dumbed down as well by the myths and illogical arguments foisted on our leaders and too many Americans by the corporate gun lobby. They have succeeded for too long now but the latest carnage in Charleston, South Carolina is pushing the country to speak out and speak the truths that have been too long ignored. We need the courage of conviction on the gun issue as is starting to happen on the flag issue. There is a right about some things in our culture that, when evil exposes the terrible wrong, just has to be acknowledged. There really is such a thing as common sense.
But instead of standing up for common sense, our legislators and Congress have left with us with a mess. What just happened in Mississippi where police can’t arrest a guy with a gun in a Walmart store who terrorizes the public points out how insane we have become when it comes to gun rights. And if that isn’t enough, Iowa has passed a law allowing blind people to carry guns in public because- rights…… Insane. It’s a mess.
These kinds of stories represent what’s gone terribly wrong about rights. These things shouldn’t be normal. The people don’t want this kind of behavior to be normal.
But we can fix what’s wrong. Our leaders have also been touched by the Charleston shootings in a way that perhaps they weren’t even touched after the Sandy Hook shooting. It’s a national shame that the corporate gun lobby stopped the country from acting according its’ conscience after the Sandy Hook shooting. Maybe this time the organization whose board member tried to blame the victims for the shooting will have to sit down and be quiet for a change. Senators Manchin and Toomey have admitted that they are willing to pursue gun safety reform legislation of some kind. Is there hope?
There just has to be change and there just has to be hope for our country. This family surely lost hope in a hurry on Father’s Day when a father who had a gun decided to shoot his children, his wife and himself for reasons we may never know. This. This is why we just have to change the conversation about guns and gun violence in our country.
Is the Charleston Mother Emanuel church shooting the one that was one too many? Is this the one? Are the other mass shootings that occurred on the week-end after the Charleston shooting too many for us? Is the murder/suicide of a young family ( just one of many that occur regularly) enough for us?
Will we decide we won’t continue to be numb and we refuse to be dumbed down and numbed by the gun lobby?
This article ends with a great quote that fits with everything I have written in this post about our political leaders and the need to have them stand up to the gun lobby:
Despite the assertion that pro-gun forces are winning the battle for public opinion, support for reasonable gun laws remains strong. According to a poll by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, 83 percent favored background checks for all gun sales, while 80 percent supported prohibiting anyone with a temporary domestic restraining order from buying a gun.
“It’s noteworthy that attitudes among gun owners were well over a majority for a whole range of different measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” said Johns Hopkins associate professor Colleen Barry.
This fight isn’t lost, then. Far from it.
It’s time to speak up and speak out.
To fight fog with facts.
And to be every bit as determined as the other side.
It’s been foggy. It’s been numbing. It’s been void of the facts for far too long. But things are changing. We may be coming out of our numbness and our fog.
Most people have. Everytown for Gun Safety produced this video. Watch it. We can now add “Charleston”. Time to stop being numb.