on the radio

This morning, I heard the first part of President Obama’s speech on gun violence and action against it. Near the beginning, he listed the major mass shootings that had happened during his presidency so far.

One of the sad realities of living in the United States is that there is a long list of mass shootings, so many that only certain of them are synonymous with the place in which they occurred.  Aurora, Fort Hood, and Newtown are among these during the Obama presidency.

But this morning, the President listed all the high-toll mass shootings. (In 2015 alone, there were over 350 mass shootings in the United Sates, using the definition of mass shooting as one with four or more victims, so the president was listing only those with the highest number of victims.)

Although the list was not chronological, one of the first cities he mentioned was Binghamton. (Binghamton is in New York State, near the Pennsylvania border about halfway across the state. The town where I have lived for over twenty-five years borders Binghamton.)

While I am grateful that Binghamton hasn’t been reduced to being shorthand for mass murder, I am sad that the shooting at the American Civic Association and its aftermath have been largely forgotten, its lessons about mental illness and access to guns, about discrimination and social acceptance, about civic pride, education, altruism, and the ideals of America as a welcoming community unheeded.

On the fifth anniversary of the ACA shootings, I wrote about why I think that is so.

Early last month, I posted about my thoughts on gun regulations and the Second Amendment.

I am grateful that President Obama is taking further common-sense steps to ensure that more background checks take place. I call on Congress – again – to take action to change the laws to protect people from gun violence.

The United States loses over 30,000 people every year to gunshots. If we were losing 30,000 people to plane crashes, it would be considered a calamity of the highest order and there would be swift action to rectify the situation.

The people of the United Sates deserve action – now.
*****
This post is part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! Find out how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2016/01/05/just-jot-it-january-5th-2016-my-bucket-list/
JJJ 2016

Again

This is not the post I wanted to write today.

But the 355th mass shooting in the United States this year happened yesterday.

Mind-boggling. Averaging more than one a day.

And that horrible toll is dwarfed by the total number of those killed and wounded by guns in the United States through gang violence, organized crime, domestic violence, road rage, all manner of crimes using guns, hunting accidents, suicide, and at-home accidents, including a heart-breaking number of incidents of children accidentally killing a sibling or friend when they find a loaded weapon in their home.

We need to stop this level of violence.

There needs to be much stricter licensing of guns so that people who use them for hunting or target shooting or other legitimate purposes and who know how to properly store and secure a firearm continue to have access, but people who are violent, mentally unstable, or engaged in criminal activity do not.

Some kinds of weapons and ammunition should not be available at all. Guns designed to only kill people, like assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bullets that are designed to inflict extra damage on human victims should be off the market for the general public.

I know that some readers are probably saying, but the second amendment of the US Constitution says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. I would ask those people to consider the whole amendment:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The sentence structure isn’t used much in modern English, but it is a translation of the Latin ablative absolute structure, which means that the first clause is the basis for what follows it. At the time it was adopted, the United States did not have a standing army, so the militia was meant to defend the country in case of attack. For this reason, keeping and bearing arms was not to be infringed.

That is not our current situation in this country. We have a large standing military force, as well as National Guard units and local police forces. Gun regulations for the average citizen do not violate the Constitution.

We have restrictions on gun ownership now in place, based on age, criminal record, and other factors. We restrict the types of weapons people may own. No one thinks they have the right to have an anti-aircraft battery in the backyard or a nuclear weapon in the garage, just in case they need it.

It is time – well, past time, but better late than never – for Congress to act to restrict gun violence.

Too many people have already lost their lives. We must not stand by and watch even more killing.

Charleston

One thing that being six hours away from my usual time zone has done is disrupt my accustomed television news watching habits, so I have not seen as much coverage of the horrific mass murder at Mother Emanuel Church as I would have, but I feel compelled to offer some thoughts about it.

First, I continue to send my thoughts and prayers out for the loved ones of those who were killed and for Mother Emanuel.  Their prayerful response in the face of such unspeakable loss has been amazing. I also love that other faith communities and the people of Charleston have been so supportive and have encircled them with love and assistance.

I was heartened to see so many stories about the lives of the wonderful people who were killed. Those who attend weekday services or study groups tend to be the core of the faith community, as you see exemplified here – ministers, long-time volunteers and staff, multi-generational church families.  In hearing the stories of the nine lives lost, my mind goes to the members at the heart of faith communities that I have known. The loss to Mother Emanuel is profound, yet they act with profound grace.

I have also appreciated seeing so much about the history of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest AME church in the south which has already overcome numerous horrors inflicted on it by racism.

One point of controversy in the media seems to be what to call the shootings. Mass murder – definitely. It also is clear that the gunman was motivated by racism against African-Americans. In most states, it would be classified as a hate crime, but South Carolina has no such category in their statutes. I think a case can also be made for calling it domestic terrorism, as it was designed to make black people fearful for their safety. Some people seem to think that this should be named as only one thing, but I don’t have a problem with calling it a mass murder, a racist hate crime, and domestic terrorism. All those labels seem to fit.

The label that does not fit is anti-Christian. The gunman did not kill these people at a Bible study because they were Christian, only because they were black. He traveled by many other Christian churches to get to Mother Emanuel. Because it is a storied black congregation, which, due to its long history of standing for justice, is accustomed to welcoming those of all races and nationalities, he was welcomed to participate in the service and Bible study. Reportedly, their exemplary Christian behavior almost convinced the young man to spare their lives; that he did still follow through on his plan to kill them makes the crime even more incomprehensible to me.

The other point of controversy is the Confederate battle flag which flies on the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol where Rev. Pinckney, who was also a state senator, lay in state. While there will be a vote to remove it permanently, the legislature did not have time to vote on Governor Haley’s proposal to remove it before his coffin was brought to the statehouse. There has, however, been a great deal of movement against selling and displaying the Confederate battle flag in the last week with several major retailers removing the flag and apparel featuring it from their stores and websites. The flag has been used to intimidate black Americans for decades and I hope that it will now finally fade from view.

I wish I could say that this mass murder would finally spur the US Congress to enact better gun control laws in the United States, but they have failed to act after so many others that I doubt this additional massacre will motivate them.  No other developed country is so dangerous – or so heavily armed. Those two things go together.