Isn’t this a sad image? The fact that someone made this political cartoon says all we need to know about the tone of the gun culture in America. For Congress has failed to act to save lives repeatedly. The corporate gun lobby has Congress firmly in it’s grasp. What is it about strengthening gun laws? Why is the gun lobby so resistant? It’s about fear. It’s about paranoia. It’s about profits for the gun industry. It’s about holding on to a culture that has changed since our own fathers and grandfathers joined the NRA. The gun lobby opposes measures that can save lives. Even though these measures won’t affect their rights to own guns for hunting, self defense and recreation, they stand against them.
It makes even less sense after a string of mass shootings in our country ending with the shooting of 9 innocent black Americans at a Charleston church. This won’t be the last of these and the gun lobby continues to foment the fear, hatred and paranoia that can influence the (mostly) young white males who have committed these heinous shootings. What’s happening is not President Obama’s fault. He has not taken people’s rights or guns away. Blaming everything but the proliferation of guns- the easy access to guns- the lax gun laws that allow easy access- the cavalier attitude towards guns and gun safety- the lack of responsibility exhibited by some gun owners- the lack of our elected leaders to deal with public health and safety measures against gun violence-the lack of an American discussion about the role of guns and gun violence…… is what is leading to the carnage.
By all rights we ought to all be fed up with this insanity. President Obama clearly is and has said so in many eulogies delivered since he took office.
President Obama delivered an amazing eulogy at the funeral of Rev./Senator Clementa Pinckney on Friday. It was, itself, full of grace and poignancy. By now you have seen it. Among the beautiful and powerful remarks made at the eulogy on Friday were these about gun violence prevention:
“We’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation,” Mr Obama said at the funeral.
“The vast majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners, want to do something about this.” (…)
“Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again,” he said.
Right from his many references to grace and then the singing of Amazing Grace at the eulogy, the words ring true:
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
We do need to stop being blinded by the outdated ideas of the corporate gun lobby. They just don’t fit with what is going on in real life every day. What we need is sanity. What we have now is insane. And even gun owners can agree that the gun carnage just can’t continue without our doing something about it.
An article written about gun laws and the gun culture in Japan is instructive about what citizens in other countries think about the insanity here. You can read about the strict regulations of guns and their owners in this article which highlights why laws matter. Japanese citizens who want to own and shoot guns must take classes, register their guns, prove that their guns are stored safely in their homes and go through stringent checks by law enforcement for their mental and physical ability to be safe with a gun. At the end of the article, the man interviewed for the piece said this:
“You should have a reason for having a gun, and if you don’t have a reason, you shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun,” he said while he prepared his rifle for his next round of practice.
Indeed, further along the range, Yanagida seemed a bit puzzled when asked about using his guns in self-defense: “I never thought about using my guns to protect myself.”
If only that was the case in our own country. How many people would still be alive today? How many parents would have their children to love or their parents or siblings? How many communities would not be talking about the violence that took the lives of their citizens?
Australia passed significant new laws after the massacre of 1996 that killed 35 people. The American gun lobby loves to pass off what happened in Australia as something it wasn’t and isn’t. Here’s an article to counter the deceptions of the gun lobby and why we, too, should pass stronger laws to stop the carnage.
And unrelated to the Charleston shooting there are some great quotes from people in articles about some of the many every day shootings and insane gun incidents that speak to our need for common sense and common ground about gun violence prevention. This one comes from a Police Chief in Mississippi after the Walmart incident in which a man bought a rifle, loaded it and carried it around in the store. I wrote about it before because at the time of the incident, the man was not arrested. It seemed that law enforcement had to grant him deference because he was a white guy with gun rights after all. But upon further review, the man and his friend were arrested for disturbing the public peace. Check out what the Sheriff said about the incident:
“The possession, carrying and use of firearms require not only training and skill, but intelligence and responsibility. When persons act with deficiency in intelligence and responsibility, it can be both dangerous and unlawful.” Chief Leonard Papania stated.
Intelligence and responsibility are both needed but way too often are deficient. We can all agree to that and we should be able to put our heads together to fix it.
And the wisdom of a young mother who was shot in the leg by a gang member who thought that just because he had a gun he could shoot it at a passing car with a rival gang member inside. He missed. That happens. And the bullet hit a young mother walking her young child across the street. The 15 month old was hospitalized and now may have life long difficulties. Here is what the mother said:
“There’s a better way to solve your problems than shooting guns. … A lot of power is in a gun. You can’t always control it,” Spielman said.
Too true. When guns are available, they will and do get used to solve problems. And they are powerful and can’t always be controlled. What about this don’t we get in our country? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill others. It should be difficult to get one and difficult to use one. We make it far too easy and people who can’t be responsible with a deadly weapon are able to get one anyway. That is the problem with our gun culture. It’s not sane.
As I write often here, we can and must change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our country. We can change the tone and set the tone of the conversation by passing stronger laws and having a common sense and civil conversation. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut knows that Congress can set that tone and change the conversation:
“The question for political leaders is whether we can live with ourselves if we continue our thundering silence in the face of these seemingly endless tragedies. Whatever you think the answer is – changing firearms laws, fixing our mental health system, increasing resources for law enforcement – the time to act was long before today. The excuse that legislative action is not a guarantee that tragedy won’t strike again is just a mask for cowardice or cold-heartedness. I shudder to think what it says about us as a nation if we don’t even try to make a good faith attempt to end this carnage.”
Senator Murphy gets to the heart of the matter. We aren’t even trying to stop the carnage. What does that say about us?
And of course, as I write constantly here, the majority of gun owners not only do not belong to the NRA or another gun lobby organization, they actually don’t like the NRA and are in favor of common sense gun measures and changing the conversation about gun violence and gun safety reform. Read this great article written in the Washington Post by just one of these reasonable gun owners:
I agree with the NRA on one point: Tightening controls on gun ownership will not eliminate gun violence. And it may not do much to address the psychopathology of young men who commit mass murder. Timothy McVeigh and the Tsarnaev brothers committed their crimes with bombs, while Adam Lanza, with no criminal record, inexplicably stole his mother’s guns, murdered her, and headed off to Sandy Hook Elementary School.
But by filtering out at least some people who are poor candidates for responsible ownership, gun control will reduce the steady bloodletting of everyday life in our cities, a pervasive environment of danger that police departments around the country have decried, calling for greater handgun controls.
Rather than being our American birthright, gun ownership should be a privilege earned after thorough examination and training, like driving a car. But in 21st-century America, arms-bearing is an inalienable right, thanks to 27 anachronistic words of a constitution ratified in an 18th-century world of slow-loading muskets. (…) The Charleston massacre probably won’t result in gun reform, but its survivors have challenged the NRA’s bleak, seething worldview by suggesting that kindness can be the dominant mood of our public life. By offering perhaps premature forgiveness to the young man who killed their loved ones with a legally purchased Glock semiautomatic, they have shown us the possibility of living a more open, less timid existence. They imagine a world of joy, community and shelter, not fear, hatred and violence.
We can imagine a world less fearful and more safe from devastating gun violence but it will only come to fruition when our elected leaders realize they can stop being afraid of the corporate gun lobby. It is a minority of gun owners and a minority of Americans. It is the job of our elected leaders to do what’s right and best for the majority of their constituents. They have not done this with gun policy. It’s time for that to change.
There should be no excuses for what happened in Charleston or no blaming the victims. That is tawdry, unseemly and offensive to all. But the gun lobby and its’ minions have a way of blaming the victims as an excuse for why we shouldn’t do anything about the easy access to guns and the promotion of guns in every nook and cranny or our country, including churches. Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence wrote this piece today about why blaming the victims is insane:
The nine innocent Americans murdered in Charleston were exercising their fundamental freedom to worship in a manner of their own choosing. Because they chose to pray without weapons does not mean they were “waiting for it.” It means that they were trying to live their lives as the Constitution envisions — in “domestic tranquility.”
The reality is that blaming the victim is deplorable, no matter the circumstances, and is a strategy to avoid dealing with tough problems. But as we have seen with the epidemic of sexual assault, domestic violence and gun violence, avoidance just ensures that the violence continues. One way to honor those killed in Charleston is to make sure that we as a country refuse to tolerate a “they asked for it” mentality for one more second.
Nobody asks for gun violence. Nobody wants to be shot. Everybody is against that idea and everybody should have a desire to do something about it. The gun lobby and gun extremists can look on from a distance and make these insane excuses and claims. But gun violence is affecting more and more of us every day and the circle of grief is getting wider as I wrote in my last post. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change the conversation and the tone of the conversation away from rights to responsibilities and to tolerance, love and keeping our fellow Americans safe from devastating gun violence.
Look what has happened in the past week or so. America is having a different conversation about the Confederate flag, about racism, about forgiveness, about health care, about marriage equality and yes, about gun violence prevention. Laws do matter as we have seen with the need for the South Carolina legislature to act to take down the Confederate flag at their capitol. The Affordable Care Act is the law of our country and the Supreme Court upheld this in their ruling this past week. Marriage Equality is now the law of the land. Though the conversations about racism and the flag are extremely important, so is the conversation about stronger gun laws. Stronger gun laws can also become the law of the land.
I want to include this great post from a blogger writing for Huffington Post. From the article by Steve Nelson:
If the rest of us concede the unimpeded right for you to have an arsenal at the ready, will you stop open carry legislation? Will you reverse the idiotic laws that allow guns on college campuses? Will you stop parading your rifles around parking lots and playgrounds full of small children? Will you agree that reasonable regulations that keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill or career felons might be good for all of us?
Yes, I know that Dylann Roof’s gun purchase was legal. Perhaps no regulation would have prevented him from attaining a weapon. But is it possible that this disturbed young man felt entitled to take things into his own hands because of our gun culture? Was his irrational fear and hatred of black folks fueled by others who arm themselves against largely imaginary threats? Can any reasonable person deny that such tragedies are more likely when the surrounding culture screams, “Arm yourself! Stand your ground! Danger is all around!”?
Just what would it take to convince you to bring the United States into the civilized world?