I’ve never lost someone to a bullet. I don’t know how it feels to receive a call that my loved one’s life has come to an end at the hands of another. I can’t comprehend the empty-pit sensation people have as they wait for a response from a friend, a family member, a spouse who happened to be in the same place at the same time as an active shooter.
But when I read about the events that took place in San Bernardino, the pain was palpable. I ached for the people who lost their lives. I ached for the people whose loved ones would never come home. And a sense of anger coupled with helplessness grew because I do not know how to make it stop.
We have become desensitized as a nation – and a state – to the cruel consequences of inaction when it comes to gun reform. Following the shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, notable columnist Dan Hodges posted this on Twitter:
“In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”
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Pungent, but hard to ignore. Vox.com has reported that since Sandy Hook just three years ago, there have been 1,044 mass shootings in the U.S. claiming the lives of 1,327 people.
The term gun reform is sharp-tasting rolling off my tongue. It hurts to say it, because I don’t think it exists. Reform means change, and the majority of North Carolina’s legislators deny reform. That is unless it’s the “pro-gun” House Bill 562 signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory on Aug. 5, the same week two people were killed by gun in Gastonia.
For those who immediately feel the need to proclaim their precious Second Amendment rights, they should note these words from former conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger in 1990:
The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies – the militia – would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.
These powerful words have gathered dust over 25 years, often re-emerging during times like now when we’re forced to ask the questions: Where does change begin, and who has the power to bring about the change that is needed?
What is the value of expressing discontent about how the U.S. and North Carolina turn a blind eye to one of the most serious issues facing us all? There is no value, unless there is action. As McCrory kicks off his re-election campaign and rubs shoulders with the conservative elite who see only flowers coming from the muzzles of guns, they must acknowledge the bullets that have claimed the lives of more than 10,000 North Carolinians since 2001, more than double the number of soldiers killed in combat during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As we reflect on the tragic events of San Bernardino, we must ask ourselves: What if that were someone I knew? Someone I loved? What if that were me?
These words alone will not prompt a movement, but the people behind them will.
Maggie T. McDonald of Raleigh works for a global public relations and marketing agency.