The New York Times ran a sobering cover story today on the epidemic of gun violence in the nation titled “A Drumbeat of Multiple Shootings, but America Isn’t Listening”. In the piece, journalists analyzed 358 armed encounters across the country where four or more people were killed or wounded — and the results were staggering. “The toll: 462 dead and 1,330 injured, sometimes for life, typically in bursts of gunfire lasting but seconds.” Tragically, this is just a snapshot of the gun violence problem currently impacting families nationwide. But if you listen to people like Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump — who used coded language and the blame game last week in front of NRA leaders and supporters after receiving the NRA’s endorsement — the answer is more guns, not less. He even went so far as to say we need to get rid of gun-free zones, aka, people should be allowed to bring guns to places like schools. Trump may talk a good game, and may know how to fire up his base, but for the mothers and fathers who have buried their sons and daughters, this isn’t politics, this is about life and death.
“It is a snapshot of a different sort of mass violence — one that erupts with such anesthetic regularity that it is rendered almost invisible, except to the mostly black victims, survivors and attackers,” wrote the journalists in this Times’ piece. They go on to say: “Most of the shootings occurred in economically downtrodden neighborhoods. These shootings, by and large, are not a middle-class phenomenon.”
The Times’ expose found that the typical victim was a man between the ages of 18 and 30, but that more than 1 in 10 were 17 years old or younger. The article also highlighted the fact that lives were easily shattered when a firearm was readily available — “in a waistband, a glove compartment, a mailbox, or garbage can….” Proponents of the NRA would have us believe that this type of violence is committed with illegal guns and therefore stricter gun laws won’t reduce this violence. But it is vital to note that in many cities and states with strict gun laws, criminals travel to states and areas where there is less restriction, get those guns and bring them back into urban communities. Conveniently, Trump, the NRA and gun rights’ enthusiasts forget this fact.
While Trump was pandering to the NRA and used coded language to say Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was going to put “innocent Americans at risk” by somehow releasing violent criminals from jail, Clinton herself spoke about reducing gun violence at a conference organized by the Trayvon Martin Foundation. “This is someone running to be President of the United States of America — a country facing a gun violence epidemic — and he’s talking about more guns in our schools, he’s talking about more hatred and division in our streets,” she said. Clinton is absolutely correct.
As those of us who have attended funeral after funeral of innocent babies, children, grandparents, teenagers, mothers and fathers have witnessed time and again, guns are ruining our lives and our communities. But because much of this daily tragedy is occurring in Black neighborhoods with Black victims, as the Times’ study so accurately highlights, there is no national outrage. Instead, we have a candidate running for the highest office in the land who is ok with having more guns everywhere, and who is ok with using coded language about entire groups of people.
As we approach Memorial Day weekend, we remember those that protect us and those that lost their lives trying to do so. But what we must also keep in mind is that those we lost on foreign shores didn’t give their lives so that we fail to protect our children here at home. This weekend, as families and friends gather for barbecues and outdoor activities, we might very well see violence in several cities sadly; we cannot act like this is the new norm because it’s been a persistent old norm for far too long.
Let’s instead make the new norm tightening gun legislation and simultaneously push back against those that distort the 2nd Amendment by fighting for our children’s right to live.