When Guns, Racism, And Religious Intolerance Collide

August 6, 2012
Written by Janice S. Ellis... in
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Mourners cry outside the scene of a mass shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on Aug. 6. The gunman who killed six people at a Sikh temple in southern Wisconsin was a former US serviceman, a law enforcement official said on Monday, and a monitor of extremists said the shooter had links to racist groups. Information/Photo Credit: John Gress/Reuters

How many incidents of wanton violence by a sober or crazed vigilante will it take for America to address its love affair with the "Right to bear Arms," bear them at any, and all costs?

The right to bear arms is as American as apple pie. But the indulgence has very different outcomes, at least in the short-term. But ironically, the misuse and abuse of both can kill you. Somehow, too often, too many Americans fail to get the message of how the misuse of privileges and pleasures can so easily cause damage, even destruction.

If only those demanding the right to bear arms used them as intended.

Any rational American must acknowledge that when a fellow American walks into a townhall meeting in a shopping mall (as in Tucson, Arizona), a crowded theatre (as in Aurora, Colorado), or in a church on a quiet Sunday morning (as in the Sikh Temple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and start shooting innocent people at random, something needs fixing.

It appears the use of the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, which allows each citizen to possess a gun to protect his home and possessions, has taken on a meaning far beyond its original intent. When the forefathers added that Amendment to the Constitution, it meant having a musket, maybe a one-shot handgun. A six-shooter or some other revolver was hardly on the radar screen.

Fast forward to today, and the right to bear arms has taken on a whole new meaning, even by the standards of the largest gun lobby in the land, the National Rifle Association, which managed intentionally or not to pave the way for anyone to own more than a rifle.

Legally, any citizen, meeting minimum screening requirements, can buy any type of gun except supposedly those used by the military. Illegally, people can buy anything they want from gun dealers, trade shows, or anyone who gets away with selling them. And the selection goes the gamut as well, including automatic handguns, military issue like an AK-47, AR 15, MAC 10, and 11.

Has anyone noticed that the United States, considered one of the most civilized and advanced countries on the planet, is one of the most violent? The rate, volume, and frequency of gun injuries in America on a daily or annual basis exceed that of many poor and underdeveloped nations.

Randomly and intentionally, innocent women, men, and children are killed on a daily basis in the United States by someone with a legal or illegal weapon. These acts occur in the home, on the streets in public and sacred places. Reasons abound, and range from love, sex, money, drugs, greed, theft, and killing someone because of skin color, cultural, or religious differences. What will it take for us as Americans, as caring citizens, forward thinking elected officials, and civic leaders, to rethink our gun laws and our enforcement practices?

Will it take a sharp decline in people going to public places before we do something that creates real change? Will it take a negative economic impact to get policy makers to act? Will it require large numbers of people refusing to go to shopping centers, movie theaters, or Gob forbid, going to church to get enough of us up in arms to demand that our local, state, and federal government do something about the proliferation of guns and the illegal use of them?

The attack on the Sikh Temple that took six lives and injured others is symptomatic of a growing and more serious problem: These events call into question whether Americans — crazed or not — resort to violence to express or solve grievances, bypass, or blame the rules of due process that our form of government affords.

Even more concerning is the question: Are Americans using violence to terrorize, kill, and maim innocent people who may be of a different race, religion, or culture?

Wade Michael Page, who also died at the scene, is according to police, the alleged shooter in the Sikh Temple, is an ex-military man who belonged to an extremist white supremacy group. Tattoos covering his upper body illustrate expressions of his hatred. And reports indicate that one of them was about 911, but the Sikh had nothing to do with the bombing of the trade center.

As we reflect on these catastrophic events, is this a possible turning point for us too seriously do something about the consequences, tolerance, and glorification of guns as well as the availability of them?

Will it make all of us pause and make a concerted effort to better understand those who do not look like us, live like us, or worship like us?

Can we ever hope for a day when words and reasons, replaces bullets and bombs?

Did someone say we are becoming more civilized?

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