“Violence isn’t a Democrat or Republican problem. It’s an American problem, requiring an American solution.”
Editor’s Note: The Language of Birds is a commentary on issues impacting the Black community. Ancient cultures have a form of communication called the Language of Birds. While often defined as a “sacred language,” it is also called an un-language or a language of un-saying. Too often things are not said but inferred, purposefully structured in order to detract or confuse. This column will provide an opinionated translation of what, why, and how issues occur and their consequences for Black America.
Each year, more than 30,000 people are killed by firearms in this country. Gun related homicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 15 to 24 and the primary cause of death among African Americans in this age group.
On February 28, 2017, President Donald J. Trump revoked an Obama-era regulatory initiative that made it harder for people with mental illness to buy guns. This decision came back to bite him on Thursday when another troubled teenager took a high-powered, automatic weapon and once again showed the nation how lives can be taken and changed in an instant.
Now, in the wake of the nation’s most recent mass shooting—this time at a high school in Southern Florida that left 17 people dead and more than a dozen injured—the president tweeted, calling the shooter “mentally disturbed,” and vowed his administration would “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”
Trump’s duplicitous style of leadership is more than obvious on the issue. In recent weeks he has both advocated for increased funding for mental health and opioid addiction and submitted a budget that included cuts to Medicaid that would gut the nation’s mental health care system.
Trump’s hypocrisy on gun violence, mirrored by Republican members of Congress at the bidding of the National Rifle Association (NRA), is epic. But let’s keep it real—the overwhelming hypocrisy of politicians on this issue is not the exclusive domain of the Republican Party.
Democrats, though they receive far less financial backing from the NRA, are as guilty as Republicans when it comes to taking action on this issue. After all, Democrats failed to act on the issue of gun violence when they had the legislative power, control, and public momentum to do so.
Admittedly, in the last decade Republicans have led efforts to collapse existing gun control initiatives and expand gun rights, but they did not do so alone—often they had help from key Democrats. After all, it was Democratic Senators who failed to renew the assault weapon ban. And at least 14 Democratic Senators voted to support legislation which gave gun manufacturers greater immunity from lawsuits than any other manufacturer in the nation.
Elected officials of both parties must get the message that they are failing the American people. Many are more concerned with holding their jobs as legislators for life than doing the jobs they were elected to do: represent the will of the American people. A Gallup poll in November showed 51 percent of Americans now favor gun control and at least 90 percent of Americans are in favor of background checks for all gun sales.
In 2016, the NRA bet big on Donald Trump and the Republican Party—Trump’s campaign alone benefitted by $30.3 million in NRA support. In the wake of this most recent mass shooting tragedy and the probable inaction by Republican legislators, it is apparent the NRA is being rewarded for their investment.
It is past time the American people fight for the lives of our children. It is past time to show the NRA this country and the lives of its people are not for sale.
This November, voters must coalesce to stop the slaughter—whether mass shootings or the unconscionable number of lives lost daily in urban settings across the country—we must stop perpetuating this insanity. We must take a stand and work to end the wanton violence.
It is time to elect a new kind of politician, one willing to stand up to the NRA. They are out there and many are finding the courage to step up and run for elected office even though the power and wealth of the NRA and others will align against them. These candidates can win with strong support at the polls from like-minded Americans willing to cast a vote for change. Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.
Now is the time for Americans to find their voices and stop the violence that is killing our children and breaking our collective heart.
Do you know the position of your local, state, and federal representatives on this important issue? Do they represent your position or do they carry water for the NRA? Before you go to the polls this June and again in November, be clear about where candidates stand before you cast your ballot.
In the meantime, call, write, or e-mail your representatives and demand more than prayer. Demand they put an end to the sale of AR-15-style rifles, limit the sale of magazines, and fully fund mental health care for those in need.
Contact information for federal legislators is available online at https://www.contactingcongress.org/.
View information regarding mass shootings by year at https://www.massshootingtracker.org/data.Sources: CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll 2008; Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research 2008; Mayors Against Illegal Guns 2009; National Opinion reearch Center 2003; American Journal of Preventative Medine 2006; Violence & Victims Stephanie Williams, Features WriterStephanie E. Williams is an award winning investigative reporter, editor and activist who has contributed to several Inland Empire publications. Williams spent more than thirty years as a middle-manager in the telecommunications industry before retiring to pursue her passion as a reporter and non-fiction writer. Beyond writing, Williams’ personal interests include stone-carving, drumming and sculpting.