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American acquiescence to gun violence is a pathetic chapter of our history

It’s downright embarrassing to see how cowardly Americans have become about combating the spiraling plague of gun violence across our country.

Traditionally, persistence and resistance have been as American as apple pie. What this country sets its mind to do is generally accomplished at some point, no matter what the odds. Why there is such a feckless reaction to this deadly nemesis is baffling.

Those who love to oversimplify say it is the manifestation of the all-encompassing power of the National Rifle Association; that politicians with the leverage to respect public sentiment and pass—even the most innocuous measures to combat the problem—instead prefer to look the other way.

Some thought it would take a dramatic incident to jar the lethargy among lawmakers. Nothing doing. If that were the case, Sandy Hook alone, with 22 dead, most of them elementary school children, would have definitely become the seminal moment and inspiration for legislation.

Not only was that horrific tragedy blurred into the nonchalance of Congress, but there have been literally dozens of school shootings and assaults on our college campuses ignored since then. As if it is some permissible bad joke, the only official response that can be expected is one that ends in “thoughts and prayers,” never action or legislation.

As mentioned earlier, if enough Americans want to get it done, it would be done. If this same laissez-faire attitude from the general public had been applied to suffrage, women still wouldn’t have the right to vote. If abolitionists had been this wishy-washy in the 19th century, enslavement might still be the status quo. If those fighting Jim Crow in the ’60s had given up so easily, Black people would still be denied fundamental rights like voting, public accommodations, education, and housing.

Consider the battle for gay rights, and same sex marriages in the United States. There was once such opposition that it was an albatross for any politician to openly support such liberal thinking. The very thought of a celebrity “coming out” was considered a sure-fire career threat. And yet while at the beginning of the Obama administration, 65 percent of those polled opposed same-sex marriages, before Obama could leave office, that percentage flipped to 65 percent in favor, and the courts upheld the right.

The next thing you know the White House was aglow in rainbow colors as a demonstration of support for the new era of acceptance, for people of the same gender to enter into holy matrimony. In the beginning of that struggle, it undoubtedly seemed like an impossible dream. By the end, the perseverance and willingness to fight among proponents of the measure was simply a force that could not be denied.

Where is that energy when it comes to our nation’s persistence on gun control measures? Where is that unbreakable alliance?

Twenty people were shot and four killed over the weekend at a “Sweet 16” birthday party in a small town in Alabama. Another seven were shot in a park in Louisville, leaving two more fatalities. This comes before we can process the killing of six innocent souls at a Tennessee elementary school less than a month ago. And these are just major cases, the ones that made national news. The bitter truth is that there is a mass shooting in the United States of America every single day.

If that sobering reality is not enough to make you personally feel compelled to say something to lawmakers, lead or join some public demonstration, launch, or participate in a letter writing campaign to businesses and companies that support the NRA, to identify and hold accountable politicians whose contributions come from the gun lobby, then you are part of the problem.

Make sure you are comfortable, that you can live with your response, years from now, when your grandchildren or great grandchildren look you in the eyes, reflecting on the scourge of gun violence, and pose the question: “What did you do…what did you say, when all of this was going on?”

It’s not too late.

Vernon A. Williams
Vernon A. Williams

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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