By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
If 20 innocent elementary school children were killed, 18 slaughtered at a company Christmas party, 33 slain on a college campus, and nine murdered in church during Bible study wasn’t enough for Congress to respond to the desperate need for gun control, what makes you think 49 bodies pulled from an Orlando nightclub would make a difference?
Next to slavery, our nation’s greatest shame is the total acquiescence and abject surrender to the National Rifle Association regarding even the most minor attempts for sensible, life-saving firearms legislation. As a matter of fact, there’s a better chance that the majority Republican Senate and House would vote for reparations for slavery before approving gun control.
An increasing number of well-meaning Americans are frustrated and resigned to the belief that nothing that they can do or say will make a difference. While 90 percent of the citizens want laws strengthened, four measures introduced Monday of this week were rejected intensifying the pain of victims and survivors. While for some this is played off as signs of the times – for many, it’s personal.
Recently, I felt compelled to write President Obama to voice my support for his attempts to enact tougher gun control. I’ve felt the need for decades. It was more than 25 years ago that my brother, Alonzo D. Williams, was ambushed as he was leaving the home of a friend on Gary’s west side. He lay in a coma for more than a year before succumbing.
My brother Bernard Williams was socializing one evening when he was accosted by a man whose verbal confrontation quickly escalated into an assault with a deadly weapon, shooting Bernard in the stomach. After a week in the hospital, he recuperated completely.
While a first-year reporter for the Gary Post-Tribune in 1974, I was standing outside the home of my fiancé when teen gunmen screeched to a halt, jumped from a car a half block away, dropped to one knee, then started spraying bullets in my direction. Caught in the crossfire of rival gangs, I was shot in the thigh and hospitalized for a week before fully recovering.
My eldest brother Willie Jr. wasn’t as fortunate.
A disgruntled former employee toting a loaded pistol only a few years ago confronted an entrepreneur named Willie in Moss Point, Mississippi. A barrage of gunfire erupted leaving the store manager shot and killed before the assailant turned the weapon on my brother – emptying the chambers and leaving Willie for dead. He survived but was left a quadriplegic.
Four of seven male siblings in one family were victims of gun violence – one fatality, one incapacitated for life. None of the brothers were involved in criminal activity or members of gangs. As a matter of fact, none of the four initiated any hostile aggression that prompted the shootings. Two of those brothers—Alonzo and Bernard—managed to get to survive Viet Nam only to be shot at home.
No matter how gut-wrenching or heartbreaking the gun tragedy, the “official” response of Congress sounds like those annoying recorded prompts you get when you call businesses these days:
“Press One if you want to hear the tired rhetoric that ‘guns don’t kill…people do.”
“Press Two if you want to hear that any gun legislation threatens the Second Amendment.”
“Press Three if you just want to blame it all on President Obama and keep it moving.”
“Press Four if you want to make reservations for the next candlelight vigil.”
“Press Five if the shootings make you want to rush out and buy a new assault weapon.”
“Press Six if you despise the suffering of victims being drowned out by ‘elected’ NRA apologists.”
“Press Seven if you’re tired of mental illness being the scapegoat.”
“Press Eight if you don’t want to hear that stronger gun laws might not have prevented killings.”
“Press Nine if the whole ordeal makes you wanna holla and throw up both your hands.”
“Press Zero if you’ve given up and want to be put on the ‘do not call’ list from this point on; to no longer be notified of senseless, deadly gun-related tragedies.”
My family has been personally impacted by gun violence. Every memory of Alonzo or conversation with Willie Jr. is a solemn reminder that Congress could care less.
It feels a little better knowing that we have a President who cares enough to respond to many stories like mine as they are shared. It may not be much solace for some families ravaged by gun violence, but I appreciate Mr. Obama’s sensitivity far more than the response from Congress – which is consistently, absolutely nothing.
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].