Civil Rights

A reminder not to be silent on gun violence (Rep. Bobby Rush)

But what about tomorrow, and the next day and the next? What happens when the TV cameras turn away from Tucson? What happens when the news media and much of the rest of our culture simply overlooks the shattered lives of thousands of grieving families throughout our nation who, each and every day, lose a loved one to gun violence?

Why is it that those extremist voices, who so passionately wail about states’ rights superseding federal rights, literally jumped for joy when, in June 2010, a narrowly divided U. S. Supreme Court overturned a Chicago law that local public officials put in place as a meaningful step to help stem the wave of gun violence?

The most recently compiled data by the University of Chicago shows that in 2008, a total of 510 people were murdered in Chicago. Eighty percent of those victims were killed by gunfire. Nearly half of those who died were between the ages of 10 and 25. Nationally, while handguns account for only one-third of all firearms owned in the United States, they account for more than two-thirds of all firearm related deaths each year. The fact is that a gun in the home is four times more likely to be involved in an unintentional shooting, seven times more likely to be used to commit a criminal assault or homicide and 11 times more likely to be used to commit suicide. None of these statistics, mind you, support the oft-stated mantra of those extremist voices who say they need to bear arms to protect themselves.

Who do they think they’re kidding? Certainly not me and certainly not thousands of other people of good will across our nation.

I have no idea what Dr. King would say or do about the thousands of lives that are lost in our nation, each year, due to gun-related violence. But I do know he would not be silent.

He would not be silent like so many leaders—on the political left and the right—who continue to refuse to stand up to the powerful and well financed interests in our country who believe hand guns should be readily available with little to no background checks. A common sense measure like this might have prevented the Tucson gunman from damaging or destroying so many lives.

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

My prayer on the day we mark the life and meaning of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is that we heed his words once again and engage in the work necessary to put an end to the carnage wrought by gun violence.

I, for one, will do my part to make a difference.


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