Every time a horrific national tragedy occurs involving the killing of school children or adults by the use of guns, the National Rifle Association immediately becomes the national whipping boy and the source for causation blame. Repeated finger pointing of responsibility at the NRA for its fierce defense of individual gun ownership relieves others in our country from their own responsibility for participating in, or enabling, the promotion of gun ownership and use in our society.
A 20-year-old man wearing black combat gear and armed with at least two handguns killed 26 people, 18 of them elementary school children in Newtown, Conn. a town approximately 65 miles north of New York City.
A member of one of the families of children in the school asked, "Who would do this to our poor little babies?" Beyond the specifics of the shooter, who also took his own life, the question is not just who, but also what and who in our society encourages and promotes the use of a gun as a reasonable choice to resolve an actual or perceived conflict with another person at their school, a place of work, worship, or public venue of entertainment?
The promotion and protection by the NRA of gun ownership and gun use under the Second Amendment has reached a point of near irrationality. Otherwise, how can we regard NRA lobbying in support of gun ownership as a serious good faith effort of public discourse, when Larry Pratt, its executive director, is reported to have said in response to the mass killing school children at the Newton, Conn., school:
Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to ensure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newton school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones.
This is prima facie evidence that the NRA operates in a parallel alternative universe detached from the 24/7 realities in which the rest of us live. Some of the stats of our reality are that every day guns kill at least 24 people in America. Over several weekends in Oakland, California and Chicago, just to name a few, more than 20 school age children are killed.
Most of these gun victims are African-Americans killed by other African-Americans, without the apparent wealth of suburban Newton, Conn, When these instances of gun violence occur, no flag at the nation's capital is flown at half-mast, and the president of the United States does not address the nation.
But it's not the NRA that is singularly or principally responsible for gun violence in our nation. Yes, it is an effective powerful lobby for gun ownership and the lawful use by individuals of guns in their homes. But other people and organizations also bear their share of culpability.
On more the one occasion I have said that violence lies like molten lava beneath the surface of society just waiting to erupt.
Why don't we as a society hold to greater account the manufacturers and distributors of the hardware and software promoting the violent gun use in the numerous video games that are watched and played by many of our children? Has any one thought about holding the producers and distributors to account for the many movies and TV episodes depicting and glorifying gun violence?
Has anyone publicly asked the financially successful rap artists who perform, produce or promote rap music -- which often celebrates masculinity and gunplay in the same breath?
Fifty years ago next year, August 28th, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, speaking at the at the foot of Lincoln Memorial in 1963, just before Dr. King delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech said:
"When I was a rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful, and the most tragic problem is silence.
Probably the greatest deficiency on the issue of the use of guns, violence and the weekly killing fields occurring in many African-American and other communities across our country, is the deafening silence of leaders of religious groups and faith-based organizations in our nation today. Where are the Pastors Richard Warren, T. D. Jakes, Paula White and the leaders of the AME Church and Church of God in Christ, Jewish Synagogues, Catholic Archdioceses, Imams, etc.; why are they not urgently calling for a nation wide cessation of gun violence?
Martin Luther King, Jr would often say it not the evil deeds of our enemies we will most remember, it will be the silence of our "friends" in the face of such evil deeds.
We adults of this generation are trustees of our most precious collective assets: our children. We have a moral duty to protect them. The answer does not lie with President Obama seeking to be Commander in Chief of National Grieving. The answer is Us.
What are we, as nation, a collection of communities nationwide with millions of people, going to do about the continued use of guns for violent conflict resolution when non-violence is always an the option that should be encouraged? Again as Dr. King said: it either non-violence or non-existence.
Which option do we have the courage and strength to choose as a nation? Otherwise, how do we answer the poignant cry of "Who would do this to our poor little babies?" Unavoidably, the moral and political answer is: us.