Finding Common Ground in Our National Gun Conversation | Whale

Late last month, a small town in Texas joined an ever-expanding list of cities and places none of them ever wanted to be.

Formerly ordinary American schools, theaters and malls with ordinary American names are now instantly linked to the carnage that took place there.

Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, Columbine High School in Colorado, Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York to name a few. And starting May 24, 2022, Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Why does it keep happening? What compels a human being to pick up a weapon, here a gun, and snuff out the lives of innocents, now little children whose eyes have barely opened in this world? Shorten the promise in your eyes?

Bad? crazy?

Like you, I have no final answer. The problem is complex. And any attempt to tackle the problem must be multifaceted.

Guns have always been a part of our culture, and being so embedded in our history as Americans, no measure or policy is likely to solve the current problem. Just as we won’t reduce violence by eliminating gun ownership, neither will we achieve it by sinking America under the weight of billions of guns.

With each of these shootings, I find myself returning to what the late Robert F. Kennedy said in a speech he gave in Cleveland, Ohio on April 5, 1968, the morning after Martin Luther King was assassinated Jr. Memphis, Tenn.

“I have taken this opportunity to speak to you about the senseless threat of violence in America that is once again staining our land and all of our lives,” Kennedy began. “It is not the concern of any race; victims are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most importantly, human beings who were loved and needed by other human beings.

“No one, no matter where they live or what they do, can be sure who will next suffer some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours,” Kennedy said, then noted that “nothing but a cleansing of our whole society can remove this disease from our souls.”

The irony is that two months later, Kennedy would be shot dead in a kitchen service corridor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Although neither the death of RFK nor the death of King nor the shooting death of President John F. Kennedy five years earlier were mass shootings, the problem remains the problem.

Unfortunately, as with so many of our pressing national problems, Americans today glare at each other across an ever-widening chasm of suspicion, contempt, and rancor, and nothing gets done.

However, I am hopeful about this: all people of good conscience want it to stop.

As I see it, the first step to any meaningful change is for us, as Americans, to rediscover our ability to speak to each other, as compatriots committed to a common cause. I’m hopeful that if we get to that point, something positive can come out of it.

Americans need to stop viewing compromise as a dirty word: it’s the genius our nation was founded on. Our entire system of government is based on this. However, I hear too often the tired comment that “the only thing in the middle of the road is a yellow stripe”.

Both sides of the debate will have to give something.

The 2008 Heller decision, at first limited in scope to Washington, DC, and later extended nationwide by a federal judge, established the constitutional right of individual Americans to own guns apart from serving in a militia state It established that the government cannot disarm citizens in their homes.

The opinion’s author, Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote in the final passage of Heller that the court found handgun violence in the nation to be a serious problem and that it took the issues seriously raised by concerned individuals who called for the elimination of handgun ownership. as a solution.

“The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia with a variety of tools to combat this problem, including some measures regulating handguns. But enshrining constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy options off the table,” Scalia wrote.

But the court, Scalia continued, recognized “presumptively lawful” regulations such as “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of guns,” bans on carrying guns in sensitive places like schools, he referred approvingly to the “historic tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons,” and recognized the deep public interest in “prohibiting the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill.”

I think we can find a common cause there.

After all, each of us has skin in the game. And for many, it is the skin of their children.

Robert Whale can be reached at

Robert Whale can be reached at

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Jennifer Ahdout

Jennifer Ahdout

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