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We must face our addiction to guns

JESSE L. JACKSON SR. | 10/15/2017, 1:05 p.m.
Fifty-eight dead and counting; 500 sent to hospitals.

Rainbow PUSH Organization

Fifty-eight dead and counting; 500 sent to hospitals. The deadliest mass shooting in modern American history took place last Sunday in Las Vegas as a lone gunman firing from a window on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel savaged a crowd gathered to watch a country music show. It was, as one observer noted, like shooting fish in a barrel. The automatic rifle fire lasted for minutes. The shooter didn’t really have to aim; he only had to pull the trigger.

We watch scenes of the massacre on our TVs. The crowd panics and begins to run. The police run toward the shooter, even though their guns cannot reach him and their vests cannot protect them from his military ammunition. Their valor no doubt saves lives.

This is an act of domestic terrorism. The killer apparently acted alone. He had been in the hotel for four days; authorities report he had about 10 guns with him. We will learn more about him, his idiosyncrasies and motivations, as authorities probe for what led him to commit this heinous act. The shooter was a White male. His relatives express shock that he could do this.

If he had been an African American, there would be a rush to connect this to the demonstrations for equality. If he had been an immigrant, it would have stoked our fears of the stranger. If it were a foreign terrorist, it would be an act of war. (The Islamic State didn’t hesitate to claim “credit” for the act, although authorities say there is no evidence at this point to support that claim.) Instead, the search will focus on what created the madness inherent in this act of mass murder and suicide.

In the Bible, Jesus asks, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). Even as the authorities investigate the mental health of the killer, we need to question our own collective insanity. Why are military assault weapons not banned in the United States as they once were? Why do we accept such easy access to guns? Nevada has no gun control laws; it is an open-carry state. Rifles are part of the West’s rural culture. Las Vegas, the sin city of casinos and alcohol, might want to put limits on guns, perhaps requiring them to be checked as they once were in the towns of the old West. The state legislature, however, has prohibited any municipality from passing its own gun control laws.

No foreign power is as much a threat to us as we are to one another. There is no sanctuary. No place is safe. A Bible study class in Charleston, South Carolina. A movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. A nightclub in Orlando, Florida. College campuses across the country.

Twenty children were shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Members of Congress have been shot. President Reagan and his aides were shot. His press secretary, James Brady, formed a group to push sensible gun control laws. But our addiction to guns continues.