The Shootings: Time to Take a Stand
By Don Kohn
On Saturday, at least 20 people lost their lives when a young gunman wielding an assault rifle opened fire in an El Paso, TX Walmart as shoppers jammed the store to take advantage of a No Sales Tax Day, just like we had here in South Carolina.
In his online screed, the shooter, now in custody, railed against Hispanic migrants and what he saw as their threat to the white race in America.
Then later Saturday night, hundreds of moms surged to the White House in Washington with other protesters to demand stricter gun control laws. Mothers hoisted signs reading “Coward Congress” and chanted “Whose house? Our house!”
And while they were there demonstrating, another young assault rifle-toting shooter walked into a bar in Dayton, OH and within seconds had killed nine people, including his own sister. He was immediately gunned down by police.
That became the 250th mass shooting in the U.S. this year and followed by just a couple days a similar assault at a garlic festival in California that left three people dead.
Throughout all of this heartache, you would think our leaders would say: Enough! You would think they would immediately return to Washington from their summer recess and take action.
In fact, Democratic presidential candidates and leaders urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to call the Senate back into session and immediately take up bipartisan legislation already approved by the House of Representatives to strengthen background checks.
This followed McConnell’s useless tweet:
“The entire nation is horrified by today’s senseless violence in El Paso. (U.S. Transportation Secretary) Elaine’s and my prayers go out to the victims of this terrible violence, their families and friends, and the brave first responders who charged into harm’s way.”
The Political Response
More thoughts and prayers. More inaction. More gutless response.
Then, we have our own senator, Lindsey Graham. What did he do?
He and other Republicans said they would support “red-flag” legislation that would allow law enforcement to restrict the purchase or access to firearms for those deemed to be a threat to others, rather than the kinds of checks offered by Democrats or bans on assault-style weapons. Such legislation, of course, would not get them in trouble with their masters at the National Rifle Association, but would be like trying to douse a hotel fire with a garden hose.
Unfortunately, this is what life has become in our nation as people are killed by guns in schools, at festivals, at concerts, at places of worship, in malls, and at picnics – nowhere seems safe.
This doesn’t happen in other civilized countries. In New Zealand earlier this year, shootings occurred at two mosques killing 51 and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced shortly thereafter that the country would ban the sale of all assault rifles and semi-automatic guns.
It happens in America because our so-called leaders lack the courage to act.”
HCDP strongly supports sensible legislation that would help to keep assault weapon killing machines out of the hands of would-be mass killers, including strengthening background checks and closing the gun show loophole, as well as banning the importation of AR-15-style assault weapons into the United States.
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday, “we cannot allow another family or another community to suffer the pain and anguish of gun violence.”
Much More is Needed
Certainly, this type of legislative response is long overdue. But there is more that needs to be done.
All of these shootings, all of this domestic terrorism, have their birth in the hateful divisiveness that is spawned by President Trump as he deliberately seeks to whip up the latent prejudices and fears held by many of his strongest supporters.
As Chris Waldron, a member of HCDP’s Communications Committee, wrote over the weekend in the online blog site Not Fake News:
“What’s missing is the acceptance of responsibility, and that responsibility belongs to none other than @realDonaldTrump and the other racist members of his administration — as well as the members of Congress, especially #MoscowMitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, for refusing to stand up for what is right.
“They are responsible because they demonize those along the southern border, calling them rapists and drug dealers. It’s the same type of dehumanization that Hitler used to justify his treatment of the Jews during World War II, yet his base refuses to acknowledge this.
“They are responsible when they call African nations “shit holes”, furthering the hatred of people of color.
“They are responsible when Trump tells sitting members of Congress to “go back” to where they came from. These women of color are being blamed for the ills of country and the attempt is to lay blame on their ethnicity or country of origin.
“They are responsible when a civil rights icon is blasted for standing up to the multiple abuses of this administration. When you are only president for the part of the country that supports you, it’s easy to use victim blaming to point out urban blight, even though your own son-in-law is complicit in this situation.
“They are responsible when they refuse to enact sensible gun reform laws to prevent the deaths of dozens because they refuse to stand up to the terrorist NRA. Instead, they continue to spread the fear-mongering lie that Democrats are ‘coming for your guns’.”
So, yes, our political leaders must take action and approve the necessary legislation, and that means we all must do everything we can to encourage them to do so. Write, call, email, demonstrate. All of that.
We must elect Congressmen and Senators and members of the state legislature who will strengthen our laws, both in Washington and in Columbia. So that means we must register to vote and then vote, and make sure our friends and family members do the same.
But it also means we must work harder than ever to elect a president who will put a stop to this hate, who will help to bring our country together, who will help us heal.
It is time to take a stand.
Don Kohn is the chair of the Horry County Democratic Party.