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Gluttons For Punishment

The Other Side of the Tracks: A Socially Speaking commentary

December 18, 2012    

By Perry Redd


I never want to be accused of “blaming the victim” or attacking the innocent, for by nature, I am a defender of the most vulnerable. We just witnessed yet another horrendous mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that quickly erased 27 lives—with a gun. As I walked through my day, I kept repeating to myself, “Again?”

It was a normal news day, and within minutes, 26 people were dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School — 20 of them children. Among the six adults killed were Dawn Hochsprung, the school’s beloved principal, and school psychologist Mary Sherlach. Nevermind his reason, for whatever it might’ve been, it wouldn’t have been good enough.

Three things came to my mind and I can’t seem to shake them.  History, reaction and response.  I believe Americans have “selective amnesia.”  There is no way anyone sane could allow this to happen to themselves…again!  Sure, we don’t bat an eye at the untold numbers of women and children we (as a nation) kill in Afghansitan, Iraq and Pakistan, but kill our own and then chalk it up to ”isolated incidents.” No, it’s not isolated, it’s murder in a continuum.

We know the history; April 1999 at Columbine, Virginia Tech, 32 killed, 17 injured; June 2011: 6 dead and a Congresswoman handicapped for life. The movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  Time and again, the same story, yet we won’t act to remove the chief element from the picture: the gun.  These people who are executing these innocent people are not criminals—until after they kill.  Remember this: no one is a criminal, until they commit a crime.

What a familiar scene: innocent people killed, body armor, lone-gunman, ends in suicide.  We’ve been here before.  I spoke out in a Facebook post: “You know what I’m going to say…how’re those GUNS workin’ out for ya? It’s really hard to kill 27 people WITHOUT a gun! People, don’t you get it???

We know the reaction: interviews with those left behind. The utter disbelief and trail of unanswered questions pepper the airwaves.  The faces are familiar…white, middle class Americans shaking their heads asking “how could this happen to us? How could it happen here?”  Like gun violence is beneath them…

I watched the interviews that overtook the networks.  I repeatedly heard tinges of presumed privilege…white privilege.  “Stuff like this does not happen in Newtown,” a tight-knit community of about 27,000 just outside Danbury, said Renee Burn, a local teacher at another school in town. In the past 10 years, only one homicide had previously been reported. But no one challenges the twisted interpretations of the Second Amendment that serves as the sole protector of murder and mayhem. Live by the gun, die by the gun.

30,000 humans are killed each year in America by guns, yet groups like the National Rifle Association or Gunowners of America propagandize the virtues of gun ownership.  I said killed by guns—not killed by “people with guns” like guns advocates like to argue. The same lame excuses for gun ownership defeat the reality of public safety year after year.  They claim that criminals and felons should be banned from owning guns.  They don’t tell you that mass murderers legally buy, carry and murder people with their guns! Politicians at the highest level govern in perpetual fear when reforms are brought to bear—after another tragic episode occurs…and we allow it.

Then, in the response, we intake the usual script: reports, wonder, condolences and commands to “move on.”  Though those may be appropriate in the moment, they are insufficient for the objective of creating a solution.  The gun lobby has anyone in America scared to death to talk of banning handguns and assault weapons…and we allow it to be so! When are we going to get sick and tired of being sick and tired?  For Blacks in the ‘hood, there are no guns manufactured there.  Every gun that was ever used to kill a Black man, woman or child, was created by a white person.  Why don’t white people see it? The gun homicides that occur in the ‘hood are of no consequence to white America.

Gun violence transcends race.  I’d hate for you to think that I don’t realize that, but I do want you to see that it’s only an epidemic when a gaggle of white people are killed. Just this past summer, 30 people were killed in one weekend in Chicago.  Black kids were the victims.  Guns don’t know race, but I do.  Black people don’t make guns, and poor Black people have a twisted expectation of gun violence.  We know that gun violence is just a clock turn away.  But when it hits your household, Black or white, it hurts like hell.

We’re absolutely crazy…we give a pass when a pass is not warranted.  Just last week, a Prince George’s County police officer was sentenced to 30 days home detention for being caught on tape savagely beating a party reveler after a 2010 football game at the University of Maryland.  We know that ain’t right, but we give him—law enforcement—a pass.  He supposed to know better!  Just like we know that guns have not served the greater good and have only destroyed public safety, but we still refuse to act to abolish them from society.  I say if police are the only ones with guns, then you’ll know who the bad guys are.

Guns have not proven to keep us safe. We are simply gluttons for punishment.


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