I am as angry as I ever have been. With the Nashville tragedies we have had 39 school shootings on school grounds in 88 days.
Over the weekend of March 24-26 alone, Philadelphia had 100 shootings in the wider community. There is only one way to examine the problem of gun deaths in this country. Buy-back programs for guns of all kinds to thin out the numbers circulating and reinstating restrictions on semi-automatics would be an effective start to addressing the problem.
Then we must deal with what has broken so many people in our society … what has been creating widespread despair. Because with such a heavily armed populace, this despair has caused exponential increases in gun deaths for various reasons.
Let’s look at two related issues creating this mass despair. First, economic injustice. We all know about the erosion of labor rights and a strong labor voice politically over the past 50 years. Real wages for most workers have remained flat over this time, while inflation has made housing, medicine, and higher education virtually impossible to afford without many individuals accruing soul-crushing personal debt. At the same time, corporations, billionaires, and Wall Street have hoovered up much of the wealth in this country taking advantage of stock repurchases during profit windfalls rather than building the real value of the company and actually sharing that with the workers who create the true value. In a society that values consumerism and shames and blames poor people, of course we also have the weakest safety net system of any highly industrialized nation. So, people feel desperate. Instead of rebelling against the rich and powerful, people have turned on each other instead of uniting. We have corporate driven media that has answered to their advertisers rather than remember the mission to be a voice for democracy. Some media outlets have encouraged hatred of “out groups” such as brown folks, immigrants, and LGBTQ people which has fueled and misdirected outrage and resentment.
Amongst urban communities who have not ever had dignified economic opportunities, some people have engaged in dangerous underground markets and had guns as a way to “enforce”personal safety and a source of material access. When those people are demonized by the more fortunate, from the more fortunate watching hate-driven media rhetoric, who increases their own gun purchases? They also increase gun purchases in response to fake accusations online of a communist government takeover. The isolating “us vs them” mentality, whether it’s “us vs the government” or “us vs criminals” is gasoline on the fire of fear generated by despair and isolation. Online growth as entertainment, the reduction of public commons spaces, and increased stresses, time at work has created this isolation and loneliness. Suicide accounts for 60 percent of gun deaths. Addressing safe storage outreach could help since most desperate individuals get guns from inside the home of a family member.
So, who is feeding fear and distrust of each other? The corporate media, especially right-wing outlets like Fox News. When a shooting occurs from a white man the narrative is he is a lone wolf suffering from mental illness. When it occurs from someone from any other group, the media condemns the whole group.
Our political environment is culpable for all this harm. With the enactment of Citizens United and dark money, legislation is pre-written and enacted not by and for the people, but by and for the top 1 percent. The gun lobby is one of the most influential interest groups and has actively opposed any kind of gun legislation which could save lives. And the corporate far right media has helped drive recent legislation in the wrong direction rather than acting as a critical analytical tool of democracy.
Other industrialized nations do not have this level of gun violence to such a huge extent. Their economic safety nets are better, and their gun laws are more sensible. Full stop.
It is time for mass rallies that won’t quit. Time to lean on our lawmakers. Time to show bloodied bodies of dead children to them. Because there isn’t the political will to make sweeping enough change for this to end without a unified coalition pushing upward.