Can't We Just Put the Damn Guns Down?

FILE- In a Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 file photo, a fake handgun taken from 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was fatally shot by Cle
FILE- In a Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 file photo, a fake handgun taken from 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was fatally shot by Cleveland police, is displayed after a news conference in Cleveland. The 12-year-old was shot at a city park after he reportedly pulled the Colt 1911 replica on arriving officers. Two fatal police shootings in less than four months of young people holding lookalike guns in Ohio have raised calls for action to prevent such tragedies. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

12 year-old Tamir Rice, shot dead on a playground and, once again, a grand jury finds insufficient cause to indict.

Yes, the shooting seems indefensible. An "unarmed" 12 year-old boy was shot dead by a cop, apparently an intemperate cop, based on his history. It is not possible to consider this case without considering the national pattern: Cover-ups; injustice in case after case; the way white cops see black boys; stereotypes; racism; cool, calculated indifference.

But these factors cannot be the sole or dominant considerations in a legal decision. Racism and injustice must be considered as context within which alleged acts occur, but it is also plausible that the police officer in any particular case is not criminally liable.

The evidence indicates that the police officer in Cleveland had reason to be fearful. Tamir Rice was allegedly carrying an airsoft replica gun. These "toys" are designed to appear as realistic as possible. Perhaps the officer was both a bad, racist cop and he was justified in his fear. That is the discomfort a just society must hold: That racism and injustice are systemic, structural and ubiquitous and yet a particular decision within a racist system may still be just.

We must deal with the reality that our society created both the trigger-happy cop and the boy he shot, who apparently thought it was cool to carry around a gun that looked like the real thing. Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming Tamir Rice for his own death. I'm blaming the rest of us for not speaking out or acting to change our violent, gun-saturated society.

We should hold folks responsible for feeding this culture of entitlement, aggression and self-determination.

We must confront the police departments in America that view their black constituents as "the other" rather than as their neighbors.

The designers, manufacturers and marketers who fashion video "games" that glamorize guns and violence hold responsibility for the disintegration of civility and the callouses that have grown on young folks' souls.

The NRA, its members and its funders should be shamed for creating a political climate where government fails to act even in the face of the slaughter of children. Politicians who pander to the gun lobby even in the face of the slaughter of children should be held accountable and removed from office at the ballot box.

Every arrogant, entitled jerk who walks in public with a firearm is making it more possible that some child will think that's a cool thing to do - and die in the street.

Every multi-millionaire athlete who carries a handgun into a nightclub, all the rap or hip-hop artists who gratuitously contribute to the celebration of thug culture and every producer and director of film or television who profits from gratuitous violence should be confronted for their complicity.

Every person who profits from the production and sale of weapons, sponsors gun shows or otherwise advances the profitability of the gun culture shares the responsibility for the deaths of children.

And the parents and caregivers who purchase or allow their little boys or girls to purchase "toys" that replicate killing devices should get their minds right. While no child should be shot for carrying around a relatively harmless weapon, no child needs to carry around a relatively harmless weapon.

I could go on.

I suppose this piece will anger nearly everyone. My progressive partners in anti-racist work will likely be disappointed that I don't simply join in the understandable outrage. And the usual suspects will come out from under their rocks to lecture me about the Second Amendment or to trot out some arcane statistics that purport to disprove any link between violent images and subsequent violence.

Armed thugs defy the government in a wildlife refuge in Oregon. There is a shooting on a campus more than once a week. As I wrote this post, a news report flashed across my screen that a 15 year-old girl shot her mother and her mother's boyfriend. Horrible icons like Columbine, Sandy Hook and San Bernardino are just the slaughters that were of sufficient scale to keep our national attention for more than a day or two.

I've just had enough with guns - all of them - in the hands of police, in the hands of children, in the hands of crazy white men in Oregon. Forget the Second Amendment or the grand jury decisions. Can't we just put the damn guns down?