There are 300 million guns in circulation in America and 310 million people, nearly one gun per person. However, in reality, these guns are in the hands of one-third of the population; and with the advent of more open carry laws in our states and the ongoing misinterpretation of the 2nd Amendment, we are creating a murderous culture that averages more than 12,000 gun-related deaths per year. The NRA and gun lobbyists are not solely to blame. We are. The wretched death of Texas Deputy Darren H. Goforth, a good man, deserves utter condemnation. It should not have taken the deaths of Alison Parker or Andy Ward for us to understand that this is unworthy of us all.
The Oath Keepers who showed up in Ferguson, claiming they were there to protect property, were vigilantes. They contravened the power of local police. There was no benefit to be had by armed white men showing up in a place where unarmed black folk had been shot at. Black panthers who showed up armed in Texas were met with a show of force by several departments. Gun lovers continue to say guns kill as bodies pile up in mass shootings as well as in domestic violence cases. Jodie Herring killed a social worker in Vermont with a .270 caliber rifle stolen from her boyfriend and possibly killed other relatives – heinous.
No form of militia – white or black – is acceptable. This is no game. Let’s not forget the unabashed gun purchasing that skyrocketed with each successive election of Barack Obama. Against whom is the ire directed that prompted this gun-frenzy? For Americans, there is a fascination and mythology about guns that most gun owners have never seen up close. Most have not known a person killed by gunfire. As a young lawyer, I represented two families in my first years of practice who lost daughters to irate men with guns. They may not have known one another but lived, ironically, on the same street in Miami just three houses apart. One was a postal worker, 24 years old, killed in the parking lot at work. The other was a county corrections officer and classmate. Both had two children. I cannot be silent after their loss.
By continuing to pass laws which encourage the public display of weapons, communities are less safe and law enforcement officers are more endangered. Have we forgotten the standoff between Nevada rancher Clive Bundy who faced down law enforcement officers over his violation of grazing laws with the federal Bureau of Land Management? Not wanting another Waco, the federal officers retreated; but how can we admire Americans raising guns against American officers of the law. Those vigilantes claimed they were protecting privacy and property rights. Have the courts become so ineffective that we’ve returned to OK Corral-type stand-offs between citizens and the authorities? By the way, if that many black people had showed up armed any place, they would be dead or in jail.
The second Amendment was drafted when we had no national army, no local police and no national guard. It was meant to arm citizens – Minute Men – who would defend a fledgling nation. Those who have bastardized the recent interpretation of the 2nd Amendment and the courts that have sanctioned it have no understanding of the Original Intent of the Framers and have prompted an overbroad reading of that amendment which opportunistic gun manufacturers exploit. Parents and children should not be diving on the floors of our inner cities to avoid gunfire. We must raise our voices and support these families who have lost loved ones.
Jeffrey Dean Swain is Dean of Campus Ministry at Florida Memorial University and an author of six works on the African diaspora.