One reason for our failure to take meaningful steps to halt the gun violence that occurs daily in our nation is the outlandish assumption that the federal government will one day declare war against its citizens and people need guns to protect themselves from the supposed coming dictatorship.
That paranoia is reinforced by the equally bizarre belief among some people that a race war is inevitable, in which case, once again, guns are essential for self-protection.
The paranoia has hit an unprecedented high point with the election of our first black president, one who is challenging the status quo, however tentatively, in a push for a new kind of politics.
But the real reason for our failure to at least begin to take steps to halt the killings lies in a much more hard-headed, all-American concept: profits. The firearms manufacturers are the ones behind opposition against every single initiative towards gun control. They do it well, through their lackeys, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) which espouses the rather curious position that the best way to curb gun violence is to make more guns available, such as putting guns in the hands and holsters of teachers to prevent another Newton, Conn., massacre of children.
There was a time when the cigarette manufacturers pitched a rather similar line against those who criticized the industry for making a product that is known to kill people. That argument has become old now. It is the firearms makers who have moved to the front.
Such claims, which offend our sense of what is right, can come to be legitimized only when our leaders lack the backbone to take on their proponents.
The most telling current example is the refusal of the Senate majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, and those of his colleagues who have signaled that they will not support a ban on some types – not all – of military-type assault weapons and large ammunition clips. Even the basic commonsense proposal of requiring universal background checks on those wishing to obtain guns is in danger of failing. The right thing to do is to put it to a vote so all America can see those who stand with the victims of Newton and those who do not.
African Americans have a vested interest in this debate, such as it is. We do not have too many instances of mass murder such as the Newtown school massacre. But it is an almost daily occurrence for the vast majority to be victimized, somewhere in some African community, by the miniscule minority who own these weapons of mass murder and use them in drive-by and other forms of shootings, killing children and adults indiscriminately.
It is, really, a case of guns but no guts and no glory.