The recent gathering of gun enthusiasts at the National Rifle Association annual convention in St. Louis was marked by the organization’s Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre suggesting the media was guilty of “sensational reporting from Florida” in reference to the Trayvon Martin case. This is what we have come to expect from LaPierre and those who twist the Second Amendment to justify the proliferation of deadly firearms in our country. It is also what we can no longer ignore and must push back against in every conceivable way.
The NRA’s politics, and the support it receives from politicians in state capitals and in Congress, have been particularly poisonous in the African-American community. As Black youth are gunned down, and innocent children sent to their graves, the gun lobby seeks to make a distinction between “responsible” gun ownership and criminal behavior. For the mothers and fathers who have buried their children, such rationale provide little comfort and for communities infested with firearms the NRA’s rhetoric is simply salt poured in an open wound. There is no safe space from gun violence, and easy access to firearms, legally obtained or not, creates the opportunity for mayhem and death. We suggest LaPierre accompany a parent to the morgue when they have to identify the body of a child mowed down by gun violence and see if the Second Amendment offers any comfort.
We want to be clear; it’s not just Blacks who have been victimized by gun violence, our community just simply is on the receiving end of a disproportionate amount of gun related deaths. Whether it is the tragedy at Columbine High School, the attack at Virginia Tech University, the recent Tulsa shootings or the Alabama teenager accused of killing his middle school classmate, our nation has been for too long in the crosshairs of gun toting maniacs. And the National Rifle Association has served as their advocates and accomplice. Over the weekend an Ohio man fetched his shotgun and killed his wife in a restaurant after she informed him she was leaving him; he then tracked down his 10 year-old daughter and killed her in a restroom on her birthday and critically injured his other daughter. The blood of all of these victims stains the hands of the gun lobby and their champions in our nation’s capital.
We have been too complacent, too polite in showing our disgust for the gun lobby and fighting back against their maniacal push to arm America. We have also failed to get behind politicians like New York City Mayor Bloomberg that have shown courage in taking on the NRA. If the tobacco industry could be held accountable for its negative impact on public health, the gun industry can be likewise held responsible for its role in compromising public health. Along the way we need to also confront manufacturers of toy guns, require stricter labeling and packaging of violent video games, and push Hollywood to do more by way of public education if it is going to continue to glamorize guns in movies and on television. Gun violence is a public health crisis and needs to be treated as such.
If we accept the National Rifle Association’s interpretation of the Second Amendment, and allow politicians and the courts to hide behind “the law,” we might as well invest in companies that manufacture body bags because there will be plenty of business to go around to keep them profitable. At some point we have to tell the NRA to go to hell and do our best to help facilitate the trip.