A new voice on senseless shootings
THE HORRIFIC KILLING spree that took seven lives, including the perpetrator’s, near the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) was the latest in a string of gun-related atrocities.
The killer was Elliot Rodger, the allegedly deranged son of a Hollywood director. He stabbed three people to death, shot and killed three more, and injured 13. He then turned a gun on himself, leaving behind the kind of carnage that is rarely seen outside of war zones and movies.
In the wake of Rodgers’ horrific act, Richard Martinez, the father of one of the victims, challenged the hypocrites that allowed it to happen.
“Our family has a message for every parent out there,” Martinez said after his son Christopher was killed in the attacks. “You don’t think it will happen to your child until it does. Chris was a really great kid. Ask anyone who knew him. His death has left our family lost and broken.
“Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA.
If any of us can move on from the carnage caused by guns, I am not just pessimistic. I am heartbroken, and angry, and sad. But our inaction in the face of dying children is not the true outrage. The real disgrace is that their lives are expendable because of money.
“They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness, we don’t have to live like this.’ Too many have died.’ We should say to ourselves: ‘Not one more.’”
Why Richard Martinez is right
Richard Martinez is right, but I wonder if his message will be heard. If Adam Lanza could slaughter 20 elementary school children and six adults in Newtown Conn., and have gun enthusiasts respond with a call for more guns, I am not optimistic. If 247 homicides in a city like Philadelphia are considered progress instead of an emergency, I am not hopeful. If any of us can move on from the carnage caused by guns, I am not just pessimistic. I am heartbroken, and angry, and sad.
But our inaction in the face of dying children is not the true outrage. The real disgrace is that their lives are expendable because of money.
The gun lobby has the ear of right wing politicians who are more fearful of losing their positions than they are of losing their souls. Led by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Gun Owners of America, the firearms industry contributed nearly $81 million to House, Senate and presidential races between 2000 and 2013, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
This is why President Obama’s push for stricter gun laws went nowhere in the wake of a massacre at an elementary school massacre. This is why Richard Martinez’s impassioned plea will dominate the news cycle for a few days, and die in the halls of Congress. This is why guns will continue to be at the center of the most heinous violent incidents in America.
Money is apparently more important than American lives. That’s why it’s the height of hypocrisy when right wing politicians cite America’s Founding Fathers and the documents they wrote as the basis for their heartless indifference.
The hypocrisy Richard Martinez exposed
Yes, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution speaks of the right to bear arms, but there has always been a debate about the true intent of that right. Was the intent to give state militias the right to bear arms, or was it to grant individuals the right to bear arms? The answer depends on one’s political viewpoint, but while we continue to argue politics, Americans continue to die.
If right wing politicians were really concerned about the intent of America’s Founders, they’d go back further than the Second Amendment. They’d go back to the very document that created America.
The Declaration of Independence makes the same point Richard Martinez did. It says, in essence, that God grants us certain indisputable rights, and that the first among those rights is life.
The right to live is more important than the right to guns. The right to live is more crucial than our right to lobby politicians. The right to live outstrips our right to spend money on campaigns. Life is our first right. Life is our most basic right. Life is and should remain the right that matters most.
No amount of money should make us forget that basic fact.
Richard Martinez reminded us of that truth. I only hope someone was listening this time.
Featured image: Two students comfort each other during a candlelight vigil held to honor the victims of Friday night’s mass shooting on Saturday, May 24, 2014, in Isla Vista, Calif. Sheriff’s officials said Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara, stabbing three people to death at his apartment before shooting and killing three more in a crime spree through a nearby neighborhood. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
* This version corrects an earlier version. Three of those killed by Rodgers were stabbed. Three were shot to death. Thirteen were injured.
Solomon Jones is an Essence bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He is the creator and editor of Solomonjones.com. Click here to learn more about Solomon.