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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Love and Hate in America

Just this past weekend I started out writing about how amazing it was to see celebrities and average people come to Louisville, thousands lining the streets, to mourn the passing and celebrate the life of Muhammad Ali. Ali, an African-American man and a Muslim. And a man of peace.

But then real life and tragedy intervened before I posted that essay. Now we are dealing with the aftermath of the largest mass shooting in American history.

It’s probably too early to know what motivated the shooter. He was Muslim and proclaimed he was a supporter of ISIS. He had been on the terror watch list. He also was a domestic abuser with anger issues. And he had easy and legal access to military-style weapons.

So the hate-monger who goes by the name of Donald Trump, who ironically also claims to have been a friend and supporter of Ali, has renewed his call for banning all immigrants who are Muslim. As Trump spews forth his gleeful hatred—tweeting that thousands have congratulated him for “being right” (another lie—fact checkers found only a handful of such tweets) Trump uses this tragedy to sow fear since he believes fear “helps his numbers”.  Trump’s behavior and rhetoric are so eerily reminiscent of nationalistic fascism that it should be making our heads reel.

But no, Trump is not done with his fear mongering and pandering to the worst demons amongst us. He also says he plans to meet with the NRA to find ways to keep Americans safe. There can be no doubt what the NRA’s answer is—more guns in the hands of anyone with the money to buy them.

Appealing to Americans’ fear of those who are different and fear of having their guns taken away, Trump hopes to pull in more votes and more NRA money.

Of course, he ignores the fact that more guns will not keep us safer. But we should not ignore the facts. The myths the NRA relies upon to reap blood money for the sale of weapons are completely rebutted by facts.

1)   The NRA and its ilk like to say, “People not guns kill people.” But in fact, guns, particularly assault and automatic weapons, are extremely effective at killing lots of people. A person with a knife, a baseball bat or a brick can perhaps kill one or two before someone can stop them. A crazy person with an assault weapon can kill dozens or more in the same time.

2)   The NRA is looking to put more guns in the hands of “good guys” who can stop mass shootings. In the real world, an untrained “good guy with a gun” is totally ineffective at stopping a mass shooter.

3) We need to use mental health resources to identify crazy shooters in advance. Sure, many of the mass shooters are crazy. But we have no reliable way to identify who is both crazy and likely to become a killer. So, while efforts to provide mental health services are a great idea there’s no indication that’s likely to prevent the next mass shooting.

4) “The Second Amendment prevents any restrictions on guns in America.” Baloney. Without a long legal dissertation, it should be recognized that the Second Amendment, like all of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights, is subject to reasonable restrictions. For example, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently recognized, there “is no Second Amendment right for members of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.”

The last thing we need are more guns. There already are as many guns in the U.S. as people. Americans die by guns at an unparalleled rate compared to any other rich, western country.  All those guns have not made Americans safer.

“In the United States, the death rate from gun homicides is about 31 per million people — the equivalent of 27 people shot dead every day of the year. The homicides include losses from mass shootings, like Sunday’s Orlando attack, or the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting last December.” 
No other equivalent country comes anywhere close to the U.S. in the loss of life from guns.

In the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy we need to hear all the voices for peace and love rather than this hate-mongering fascism. We particularly miss the voice of Muhammad Ali, a Muslim and man of peace to rebut the hate-filled fear mongering that is alive and prospering amongst us.


  1. Whilst I commend your thoughts,it would have been ok for you to acknowledge the appalling assault on the LGBTQ community.This was an horrific attack on people because of how they love.

  2. I want to echo the above comment. While I absolutely agree with you on the evils of horrific weapons that are manufactured and sold with great ease, as well as the ugly reality that is Donald Trump, I do believe you neglected a key facet -- probably the key facet -- of the story. The people who were murdered were murdered because of their very nature.

  3. I appreciate you have taken the time to comment. I am sorry if I didn’t make it clear—I am just as saddened by the 49 deaths and many injuries in this horrific slaughter whether they are gay or straight. I recognize, like other minority groups, LGBT folks have been the subject to hate crimes. I feel terrible that sort of thing occurs. But I don’t think we yet know if sexual orientation is the reason these victims were killed so I don’t agree the key facet of the story is the sexual orientation of some of the victims. My main point was that all sorts of guns, particularly assault weapons are too easily available. And that is true whether the victims are patrons of a gay nightclub, African American Christians, little children or random strangers. We need to stop the carnage. My other main point was that Trump is using this type of tragedy to tear us apart and separate us into factions fearful of each other. Let’s not let him do that.