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Gun debate overheats

Recent polls show an increasing majority of Americans support improved gun-safety laws — Gallup found a 13-point increase, now at 38 percent — and they aren’t buying the National Rifle Association’s tired mantra that any attempt to address gun safety impossibly conflicts with protecting our Second Amendment rights, as the NRA’s favorability ratings within and outside of the organization continue to drop.

President Obama, Vice President Biden, Democrats in Congress and other elected leaders have also continued to affirm the seriousness of their commitment to move forward with executive and legislative solutions aimed at addressing basic issues, including the 40 percent of gun sales that occur without a background check; the lack of a national database system that could alert local law enforcement about a citizen amassing weapons and ammunition; and the accessibility and use of weapons of war carried by our soldiers in Afghanistan in American communities like Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.  

{mosads}Not surprisingly, the clearer it becomes that an increasing number of Americans support common-sense measures, the higher the NRA and its allies crank up the fear-mongering and hysteria, from lies about our nation’s first African-American president coming to take away their members’ guns to invoking Stalin, Hitler and insurrection in 1776 to a suggestion that if blacks had had firearms, perhaps slavery would never have happened. All of which contributes to the very divisive, intolerant, violent tone that is also a part of America’s unique relationship with violence.

Our nation will honor the birth and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the vice president presents his recommendations to Obama. In his autobiography, compiled by Clayborne Carson, Dr. King reflected on another period in our history in 1963, not long after the death of President John F. Kennedy. His message remains eerily relevant today:

“The shot that came from the fifth-story building cannot be easily dismissed as the isolated act of a madman. Honesty impels us to look beyond the demented mind that executed this dastardly act. While the question ‘Who killed President Kennedy?’ is important, the question ‘What killed him?’ is more important. 

{mosads}“Our late President was assassinated by a morally inclement climate. It is a climate filled with heavy torrents of false accusation, jostling winds of hatred, and raging storms of violence. 

“It is a climate where men cannot disagree without being disagreeable, and where they express dissent through violence and murder. It is the same climate that murdered Medgar Evers in Mississippi and six innocent Negro children in Birmingham, Alabama. 

“So in a sense we are all participants in that horrible act that tarnished the image of our nation. By our silence, by our willingness to compromise principle, by our constant attempt to cure the cancer of racial injustice with the Vaseline of gradualism, by our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing, by allowing all these developments, we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.” 

We know there isn’t one single cause for gun violence; as we now explore more than one single solution to the problem, we should ask ourselves what we can do to be part of the larger solution.

Karen Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC and Democratic consultant, and co-host of POTUS/Sirius XM’s “The Flaks.”

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