The Sit-In by Democrats in the House of Representatives this week turned to creative non-violent protest to call attention to the unwillingness of Republicans to meet in the people’s house to address one of the very greatest dangers to Americans.
The slaughter in the United States represented by a level of gun violence that is 25.2 times of that of the dozens of comparable nations is a direct assault on the Constitution’s promise to maintain domestic tranquility. Whether or not the problem is the NRA, or pressure from the dominant element in the Republican Party favoring a pro-gun leap into creating an America where we see more and more guns as the solution to this problem, people are dying and they are all Americans.
Stonewalling any effort to seriously address the needs of anywhere from 84 to 90 percent of all Americans, who want to prohibit terrorists from buying firearms so easily, and to have background checks on any gun purchase in the United States halt gun purchases by people who are mentally ill, those whose fear and hate may have become unmanageable, spouses or ex-spouses who wish to commit violence on most often women, terrorists domestic and foreign, outright criminals who intend to commit violent crime has been ignored by the Republican Party.
This issue is of great moral transcendence, it strikes at the heart of our people to be able to exercise their civil liberties, their freedom and pursuit of happiness without fear of being gunned down in the streets, at home, at public events, airports, and in all manner of public spaces we all use every single day.
A morally responsible representative would have joined with Democrats to work in harmony to make, at the very least, these two modest changes to our laws to close these two windows into mass slaughter that puzzles and horrifies nations all over the globe, and deprives the United States of its rightful place, where freedom, justice, and equality reign. It deprives us of a just democracy, where those we elect to represent our interests and concerns have utterly failed to do so.
Let us be clear about who has failed on the gun violence issue. The persistent fact is that the Republican Party and its representatives, with clear majorities in both houses, have been unwilling to tackle the problem at all. Yes, there were votes in the Senate, but Republican Senate leaders made sure none of them would pass.
We must also note that there are a few Democrats, very few, who would rather not tackle this problem either. They are so small in number that it is no reflection on the Democratic Party generally, where an overwhelming consensus is that this issue is the most important one of many the nation faces now, and has faced for decades.
We may rightfully ask why Republicans do not comprehend the emergency. Why there is even any split between partisans of both parties in Congress? Government has the responsibility to protect and defend the United States of America, what are, in a collective sense, the American people, from harm.
The consensus among the American people to act decisively on gun violence comes from voters supporting major political parties, minor ones, or no party at all. Even a clear majority of gun owners and NRA members themselves have expressed their support for gun legislation that is before the Congress. 84 percent of Republican voters now want these two measures.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has called the Sit-in on the House floor nothing but a publicity stunt. Do you think a mother grieving over the gun death of her daughter would view this effort to induce the House to confront the issue and to act for the American people a mere stunt? We think not.
What sort of Congressmen or Congresswomen would block efforts to begin the long process of reigning in our culture’s obsession with guns? The American edifice is burning in front of our very eyes, practically every American is ready and willing to join in the effort, yet Republicans in government say no, we will not do it. What sort of insanity is this?
Struggles for Justice calls on our representatives to actually represent us. We support the two measures before Congress as the obvious first step in dealing with what is a multi-dimensional problem.
We will have to increase spending at all levels of government on mental health services and resources. Minor changes in gun law to give more of an edge to law enforcement in combatting guns flowing in to our cities, from places where states with lax gun laws make it easier for gun traffickers to do their deadly work have to be made. The resources for law enforcement to be more effective than they already are, has to be there.
A pivot to a United States that promotes education at all levels that is truly equal for all children and adults, that is debt free, and helps us compete and raise families at a salary or wage that provides some real measure of the American Dream is a vital beacon of hope and a fertile field for our people to strive to rise unfettered, as Abraham Lincoln desired, to truly live out our freedom, meet our responsibilities as citizens, and achieve, instead of turning to violence to solve our problems.
Struggles for Justice in the coming new- year wants to see prompt action on an assault weapons ban on new gun sales, a buy-back program, and limits on the size of magazines. We also in the most strenuous terms support the Second Amendment, though we do not view it as any more an absolute, zero sum right of the people than that in the First Amendment on speech. Hate crime, and the most dangerous inciting speech where acts intrude, can be regulated in the interest of public safety. Even the recent Supreme Court decision making the Second Amendment a personal right of each citizen recognized most clearly and cogently that Congress may legislate and provide gun regulations.
When John Lewis sat down with his brothers and sisters, he was participating in non-violent direct action that Gandhi employed in India. He has brought enormous authority to the action as he did so historically so many times during America’s Civil Rights Years.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. explained to the nation many times that non-violent direct action:
“seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”
The urgency of this issue may be found in our common hopes for our children and grandchildren. Repeatedly, our major cities have seen little boys and girls shot and fatally wounded by gang violence when they are unknowingly in the way of the all too frequent stray bullets sprayed all over neighborhoods on practically every night of the week. Our children see things on social media and on television much earlier than their parents may suppose. And it does scare them.
The urgency of now is also fueled by the steady drumbeat of mass shootings that makes us the nation on our Earth where, with an absence of war and outright violent revolution produces the greatest mass killings on the planet. Americans must have long memories whatever other vital issues intrude. Did the abolitionists stop when they met such resistance to the emancipation of the slaves? No, they did not. We too must be willing to continue the effort however long it takes to get justice for our children and ourselves.
Bobby Rush, a Chicago Congressman, quoted from the Christian Bible and the Old Testament prophet Micah:
“He has told you , O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?“
Rush pointedly reminded the nation, along with those sitting in Congress that God expects us not to just pray for justice, or kindness, or humility in relation to our maker but that we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God. These are actions and not mere hopes or prayers for giving families who are grieving gun violence or those facing injustice and long oppression some real hope and healing.
We must act. We must act.