By Jim Norman
On Thanksgiving Day, as I write this column, I feel motivated to reflect on what I have to be thankful for over the year that is now drawing to a close. And, at the age of 80, life itself—along with relatively good health—is at the top of a long list.
Yesterday, a gunman murdered six people in a breakroom at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, before turning his gun on himself and taking his own life. Say their names, some say. Thoughts and prayers, say others.
A few days earlier, a gunman opened fire in a nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing five people and wounding 18 others before a heroic club patron overpowered him and held him for police. Say their names, some say. Thoughts and prayers, say others.
Within the last two weeks, a student at the University of Virginia shot and killed three members of the school’s football team on a bus as they returned from a class trip. Say their names, some say. Thoughts and prayers, say others.
On June 1, a gunman killed four people in a shooting at a medical center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On May 14, a white gunman murdered 10 black people and wounded three others in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. Say their names, some say. Thoughts and prayers, say others.
19 children murdered at school
Earlier in May, a gunman broke into a school in Uvalde, Texas, and murdered 19 children and two teachers. Say their names, some say. Thoughts and prayers, say others.
So far this year, 39,821 people in the US have been killed by guns, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
In 2020, a record-setting year according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 45,222 men, women, and children were killed by guns in the United States. Of these, 43 percent were classified as murders, 54 percent suicide, and 3 percent “other.”
To the families of those whose lives were obliterated, thoughts and prayers and saying their names may provide temporary comfort, and it may help them to know we are thinking about their lost loved ones, but it will not bring back the dead. It has not stopped, will not stop, cannot stop the grisly carnage from continuing.
Say their names? Thoughts and prayers? Moving exercises, no doubt, but how much time do we have for saying all their names before we begin to take serious action to answer the moral imperative to put an end to gun violence?
A Band-Aid over a hemorrhage
It is beyond reasonable doubt that there absolutely must be immediate and strict regulation of firearms in the United States, and halfway measures like so-called “red flag laws” that allow judges to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who they believe may present a danger to others or themselves are simply a Band-Aid over a literal hemorrhage.
“But what about our sacred Constitutional rights under the Second Amendment?” whine the gun lobbyists, such as manufacturers who profit from the wholesale slaughter of some 40,000 Americans each year, and the National Rifle Association, which has accepted untold thousands of dollars from Russian oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin to further its drive to destabilize life in America.
Spare me. We all know from a plain reading of the full Second Amendment that the right to keep and bear arms is contingent upon the context of a “well-regulated militia, being necessary to security of a free State.” Sadly, we have allowed what can only be described as the forces of evil to write that contingent clause out of the Constitution, without the bother of constitutional amendment or even legislative action.
Forces of evil dedicated to destruction
Well, what about the Supreme Court, in the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association case, deciding by a 6-3 majority opinion written by Clarence Thomas to sweep away the legal basis for gun regulation across the nation? Again, spare me, and spare us all. Let me say without hesitation that it has been clear to me for a considerable length of time that the Supreme Court, as presently constituted, is little more than a right-wing politically motivated sleeper cell in black robes, loyal only to the forces of evil dedicated to the destruction of the United States. In my view, it has shredded its own credibility and merits no respect whatsoever.
What is the appropriate ethical response to this sorry state of affairs? In my view, attitudes opposing meaningful gun-control legislation by our elected officials, judges, and corporate leaders are a determinative litmus test. Simply put, it is time to sweep them away in a wave of universal disgust.
I vow that I will never again cast a vote favoring any candidate of any party for any office who fails to unconditionally support serious, full-throated measures to end the pandemic of gun violence in the United States.
And to those well-meaning progressives who fear that my freshly radicalized perspective may jeopardize the struggle for the preservation and restoration of important voting rights, employment rights, minority rights, women’s rights, environmental rights, LGBTQ rights, immigration rights and other important rights, I suggest that banishing demonstrated enemies of American life from effective participation in our governance will at the same time clear the path for the permanent protection of all legitimate rights.
I have made my ethical choice. What will yours be?
I include a few links to resources that you may find helpful:
Jim Norman is president of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County.