Thembi Ford, a writer on BET’s First Wives Club, for “Too Black to Blush: The intersection of politics, pop culture, and Black Girl Magic.”
The Gilroy Garlic festival shooting got me thinking about guns, so the first draft of this column, written last week, was in reference to what, after El Paso and Dayton seems a mild mass shooting with its death toll of three.
That draft centered around my realization that mass shootings have become so frequent and hard to keep track of that I can never remember the shooting before the last one. Well, a couple of nuts with assault weapons in El Paso and Dayton sure showed me by executing mass shootings so soon after Gilroy that the one before the last one was just a week ago, making it impossible to not at least kind of recall the one before last, even if it doesn’t leave the kind of impression the most recent ones do. Three dead? How quaint. By the time I had a chance to read the details of Gilroy later that night, it had been demoted from the top story to somewhere between sports and the weather report. We are that desensitized.
As usual, the president is loud and wrong, video games do not cause mass shootings, and extensive research has proven as much. The jig is up, Trump, it’s your thinly veiled hate speech that’s bringing violent white supremacists out of the woodwork, not World of Warcraft. If the president calls Central American immigrants an infestation, the person who decides to “exterminate” them cannot be considered a “lone wolf.” He is more part of the militia the founders’ reference in the constitution.
Read the second amendment with a basic understanding of U.S. history and it’s clear that the right to bear arms was supposed to be about protecting the United States from threats — mainly people of color and foreigners [uprising slaves, Indians, the British]. The founders certainly didn’t foresee the war machines guns are now. The second amendment is about muskets, not AK-47s. We are not applying the law as the founders intended. I’m no fan of the founding fathers and no constitutional law scholar. Frankly, the only founding father I even partially fool with is Benjamin Franklin – a Quaker who would certainly be appalled at the violence the average American must contemplate in the name of “freedom”. The second amendment was obviously never about the right of private citizens to unload dozens of bullets at a time.
One of my favorite gags in the Wayans send-up of 90s hood movies Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood is Marlon Wayans as Loc Dog rolling up with a rocket launcher in the hood. It’s still funny but we’re not far from that as a reality. Right now, weapons designed for combat and mass murder are legally in the hands of private citizens and easier to get than birth control.
I own a 2002 Toyota Camry and it’s a miracle it even starts anymore, but the administrative hurdles I have to clear just to legally keep it parked in a private garage are greater than the effort it would take for me purchase an AR-15 assault rifle.
Why are guns exempt from the basic common sense we apply to everything else? Assault weapons have no purpose but mass murder and therefore should not be legal. At the very least, guns are by definition a liability. If you own a gun, you should be required to insure it and held responsible if it is used to harm someone.
The only certainty about gun violence is that there will be another mass shooting or other loss of innocent life thanks to guns, hopefully, this time not before this essay is published.
I am sick of [insert American city] strong. When is the last time you went to a large public gathering and didn’t think about the possibility of being shot? My answer — in 2005 at a parade in France, where private citizens are not legally allowed to have guns, and before mass shootings became ubiquitous in the U.S. Even if we aren’t worriers, we all live with that low level of anxiety over the inevitable. It is irrational to think living this way is freedom. On the contrary, we are prisoners to the easy availability of guns in America, basically needing permission from the almighty gun to go to school, a concert, Walmart … anywhere without being shot.
Gun violence needs to be treated as the public health issue it is immediately. If we, as a society want to stop this, we have to study it using the same kinds of effective research and methodology we used to save lives previously lost to smoking, AIDS, and car accidents. It is in no way different, except that there are powerful people who don’t like the policy answers gun death research yields.