Time for Congress to Act
Two days prior to finishing my previous column a couple of weeks ago, we learned of yet another mass killing at the Pulse Night Club in
Orlando. As of this writing, House Democrats, led by Georgia Congressmen and Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis, are staging a sit-in on the
House floor. Lewis was quoted as saying, “Sometimes you have to do things out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no
way. We have been too quiet for too long.” I applaud him for his continued courage and tenacity. Gun violence in America is a serious public
health issue that must be addressed with a greater sense of urgency.
The sit-in was deemed necessary after measures that would restrict anyone on the “no fly” terror watch list due to suspected ties to terrorism
from being able to purchase firearms. The NRA has made it clear that they do not support any type of gun control legislation that restricts a
person’s Second Amendment rights to bear arms. This is in spite of the fact that the vast majority of registered gun owners support universal
background checks and banning anyone who is on the terror watch list from purchasing firearms and explosives.
The NRA along with other pro-gun lobbyists argue that there are people on the no-fly list who should not be on there and the concern expressed
by them, and other gun lobbyists are that a person could potentially be deprived of their constitutional right to purchase a firearm if they are on
the list by mistake. The notion of due process is another concern for the NRA, et.al in that a person could potentially be deprived of due
process if they show up on the list. After conducting a cursory search, I was unable to come up with a single incident where a person who
was mistakenly on the no-fly list was not able to purchase a firearm. Not to say that it hasn’t happened. I was just unable to find any evidence
to substantiate the claim.The fact that we have people like Omar Mateen, the person responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in U.S.
history at the gay night club in Orlando, who had been on the terror watch list and had been interviewed by the FBI on at least two occasions,
was able to purchase a military grade assault weapon and kill forty-nine and injure more than fifty people is absolutely absurd.
A simple argument used by those who oppose gun control measures is that a bomb or a knife or some other weapon could have just as easily
been used in the attack. While this may be a legitimate concern and I have no issue with people owning guns, I own one myself; it’s the fact
that so many of these weapons are ending up in the hands of people who are hell-bent on doing evil. Besides, most mass killings in the U.S.
involve firearms, not explosives and knives. Dillon Roof, who was responsible for killing nine people during a Bible study class at Mother
Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina last year, is one of those people who should not have been able to purchase a firearm, but he
reportedly fell through the cracks.
Recent data indicates that over 33,000 Americans die each year as a result of gun-related violence. This number encompasses homicides,
suicides as well as accidental shootings. While the concern seems to be primarily focused on foreign terrorists, it is important to keep in mind
that homegrown terrorism, lone or known wolf attacks are very prevalent and are a constant threat within our borders. As far as I can tell,
there have been no members of Isis or any other foreign terrorist group that have crossed our borders and killed any American citizen. And
while I fully understand and wholeheartedly agree with the fact that we need to deal with terrorism abroad and protect our borders, we cannot
lose sight of the fact that domestic terrorism remains a serious issue for us to solve as well.
A Muslim ban will not prevent homegrown terrorists from inflicting harm on our citizens. While sensible and reasonable gun control legislation
measures put forth by Democrats have been blocked by Republicans in Congress because the NRA and its allies do not support them, the
need for universal background checks and closing the gun show loopholes will not impede the ability for responsible gun owners to purchase
weapons. It is important that we keep in mind that it is never a good idea to scapegoat an entire religion for the acts of few extremists.
Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has stated that American Muslims are not reporting fellow American Muslims who they fear
may be turning to extremism. Sadly, like so many of the things that come out Mr. Trump’s mouth, there is simply no factual basis for his
assertion. According to a recent article in Reuters, American Muslims have, in fact, informed authorities about other American Muslims that
they fear may be becoming radicalized.
I find ironic that the debate about gun control measures actually only seems to garner national attention when people are killed in mass
shootings. As I mentioned earlier, thousands of Americans die every year as a direct result of gun violence and it has been frustrating that
after every single one of these kinds of attacks, the need for gun control again becomes the focal point. This causes us to lose sight of the fact
gun violence in our nation is a daily occurrence. The issue is that we not only have a mass shooting dilemma, but our dilemma with guns is
also multi-faceted. The fact of the matter is that these mass shootings are minuscule when compared to the totality of gun violence in America.
And when you superimpose on top of that the racial disparity in gun violence, it drives the point home even more so that Congress needs to
Most of the gun violence in our country is primarily concentrated in our poorest and most racially segregated cities like Milwaukee,
Cleveland, and Detroit, just to name a few. For example, a Black is twice as likely to die from gun violence as a white. African-Americans
represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, but make up more than half of all gun murder victims. Recent statistics on gun deaths in the U.S.
tell a sad tale. Of the 30 Americans killed by gun violence on a daily basis, 15 of those are African American. So, while mass shootings and
acts of terrorism need our full attention, we cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that gun violence is a daily challenge for us to solve as a
nation. Congress needs to take immediate action to end the carnage and save American lives.