On April 16, the United States Senate failed to act on legislation to control the purchase and sale of guns. The senators’ inaction is more than moral failure.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963),” asked rhetorically: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God?” He challenged whites, including the eight clergymen to whom the “Letter” was addressed, on their silence and inaction on wrongs within their communities.
After watching President Barack Obama’s disdain regarding the Senate’s failure to enact gun-control legislation, I am compelled to ask: “What kind of people are these? Who is their God?”
Senators elected to serve the people ignored what polls say 90 percent of us want: reasonable background checks. The senators fear the National Rifle Association (NRA) more than gun victims’ families. They serve the rifle god. For Christians, the failure to do good is sin (James 4:17).
America loves the gun. America is awash in guns – some 320 million, by some estimates.
Guns gained pervasiveness in American society after the Civil War and subsequent foreign wars (World War I and World War II), when discharged soldiers either returned home with or purchased guns.
For a country whose mainland was never
invaded by a foreign power, why are we pro-gun, armed to the teeth and apt to turn our weapons on ourselves, rather than our enemies?
Gun violence ravaged the inner cities for nearly two decades in the 1980s and 1990s and lawmakers, under the guise of gun control, reacted with penalty laden laws that caused the highest surge ever in the incarceration of blacks and Hispanics in history.
Are the senators afraid to incarcerate whites?
In the mass killings in Phoenix, Ariz., where former Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford was shot; in Littleton, Colo., where a movie theater was sprayed with bullets; and at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., York, where children and educators died, the killers have all been white males. Noticeably, each of them was declared mentally ill before the smoke from their guns cleared.
Outside of a few cities (Chicago and New York) and states (Colorado and Connecticut) that have enacted tougher gun laws, the rest are quiet.
Again, what kind of people are these?
I abhor guns. We endure the lies of the NRA and its supporters who say the Second Amendment is without limits. As a former attorney and instructor of Constitutional Law, I know this is not true since we limit free speech, the press, privacy, property and other constitutionally given rights and liberties when the public good demands it. No constitutional amendment is limitless.
We tolerate implications that blacks are more violent than whites when gun purchases among whites skyrocketed after each of the last two presidential elections. Does a black president pose that great a threat? Whites carried guns to his election rallies both times in certain Southwestern states.
According to the United States Census, 80 percent of whites do not live in neighborhoods with people of color.
Why do whites feel compelled to arm themselves incessantly when blacks suffer more gun violence per capita?
Dr. King once said, “The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds, to swim the sea like fish; but we have yet to learn the simple art of living together as brethren.”
Surely, people across the world look at Americans and guns and ask themselves: What kind of people are these?
Fifty years after Dr. King composed his “Letter,” black folk today are watching another great sin of omission. Since we know black life is not valued in America, how many white deaths will it take for the Senate to act? Which famous person’s child has to die before the common person’s life is valued?
I join the president in being stunned and distraught for an America that tolerates this from our leaders. Politics mean more than human life to senators and to some white Americans.
What kind of people are these?
*Dr. Jeffrey Dean Swain is vice president of the International Black Doctorates Association Inc., an administrator/instructor of law at Florida Memorial University, author and minister. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College and holds juris doctor and Ph.D. degrees.