Posts Tagged ‘shootings’

Dear Speaker Ryan,

This week, a 19 year old man walked into a high school and murdered 17 people, wounding countless others. In response, you said this is not the time to talk about gun laws.

“This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings….  We need to think less about taking sides and fighting each other politically, and just pulling together. This House, and the whole country, stands with the Parkland community.”

I’m not sure what “step back and count our blessings” means in the wake of the grizzly murder of 17 teenagers and teachers.  Perhaps it is meant to stand in for the now discredited “thoughts and prayers” Congressional leaders have offered so many times in the past.

While I understand that special cases make bad law, this is not a special case.  This is normal in the United States of America.  According to the Gun Violence Archive, 30 mass shootings have resulted in 58 deaths and 124 injuries in the first 45 days of 2018 alone.  In that same time, there were 1806 gun deaths and 3126 injuries.  69 of those reported deaths and injuries were young children.  331 were teenagers.

So my question is this.  When is the right time, Speaker Ryan?  How long a pause in the bloodshed is required for Congress to begin addressing its cause?  You speak of mental illness, but every country in the world has mentally ill people; among Western nations only the United States experiences violence on this kind of scale.  Blaming the problem on the mentally ill distracts from the true causes of violence while perpetuating a hurtful and harmful stereotype.

The issue, Speaker Ryan, is easy access to guns.  The issue is a lack of any form of training or licensure to own a deadly weapon, widespread legal ownership of assault weapons, a lack of universal background checks, and above all, a Congress beholden to the National Rifle Association.  (Last year you personally received $171,977 from that lobby, more than $90,000 more than the next highest recipient.)

So I ask again, when is the right moment?  The longest we have gone between mass shootings in 2018 has been three days.  Would that be enough time to “count our blessings?”

If it is not, then I submit that you do not “stand with the Parkland community,” nor any community that has suffered such an attack.  You do not stand with the over 150,000 American students who have been witness to a school shooting.  You do not stand with the vast majority of the American people, who overwhelmingly support universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.

More importantly, you do not stand for life.

How long, Mr. Speaker?  How long must we wait?

In faith,
Rev. Dan Schatz


photo by Elvert Barnes

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Today is the second anniversary of the mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, in which six people lost their lives and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head.  In the intervening years we have seen similar shootings at an Oakland, California college, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and, most horrifically, a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school.  Sadly, the actual list is far too long for me to recount – the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence lists over 70 mass shootings since Tucson, and that only tells a small part of the story.  Every day in the United States, gunfire kills 87 people – 8 of them children, 5 of those murder.  That’s over 100 Newtowns every year, and most of us don’t even notice it.

After the Newtown shooting last month several gun control opponents cited a mass stabbing in  China, correctly pointing out that no amount of gun control could not prevent violence or keep someone whose heart is bent on mayhem from committing it.  In doing so, they made the case for gun control far more effectively than I could have, because of the 22 children stabbed in that assault, not one died.

Guns do not cause violence, it is true – but they make it far more deadly and dangerous.  Suicides attempted with guns do not allow for second thoughts.  Violence committed with guns – especially with automatic and semi-automatic weapons – kills.  Too often it kills the innocent.  I understand the desire for freedom, for protection, for recreation.  I understand that the overwhelming majority of gun owners are decent, law abiding people.  But 2000 dead children every year is too high a price to pay.

It is also true that gun bans will not by themselves immediately fix the problem.  Our laws have been so lax, for so long, that the guns are readily available for those who would obtain them illegally.  Buy back programs help, but it will take a long time to solve the problem we have created for ourselves.  In the meantime, licensing can help, waiting periods and background checks can help, keeping the most dangerous guns limited to sporting facilities can help, and education can help.

Tom Paxton often writes what he calls “short shelf life songs” – songs in response to world events that he doesn’t expect to be relevant once the news cycle has shifted.  Two years ago he wrote “What If, No Matter” in response to the shooting in Tucson.  Sadly, the song remains all too relevant.

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