Stuff Happens: Ten Dead and Seven Wounded in Oregon

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush was asked to respond to the massacre of ten and wounding of seven students at Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Oregon. Specifically he was asked whether stricter gun laws were needed. He said: “Look stuff happens, there’s always a crisis and the impulse is to do something (more government control) and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

In recent years a lot of murderous ‘stuff’ has been happening. According to the web site Mass Shooting Tracker which tracks events in the USA where 4 or more people are shot in an event, there have been 994 mass shooting events in 1004 days.

Most of us thought that the murder of 24 children and staff in Newtown, CT in 2012 would be the tipping point for tightening up on our lax gun control laws. But we’ve learned that the NRA is a powerful barrier to gun restrictions and to date has controlled the political debate. The NRA offers an extreme interpretation to the 2nd Amendment where there are essentially no limits on access to weapons and the harm they can inflict.

To understand the effectiveness of the NRA we need only follow the money. The NRA has received 39 million dollars in recent years from the 12 billion dollar a year firearms industry. The NRA as a primary lobby for the gun industry spends millions of dollars to support and defeat members of congress. Thus far the NRA has effectively controlled the debate in Congress and has muted resistance within the Democratic party and is seemingly in complete control of the Republican narrative, hence Jeb Bush’s lame response to yet another mass shooting, ‘stuff happens’.

NRA president Wayne Lapierres response to the mass shooting is to arm more people. Donald Trump leading in the Republican polls calls for arming every teacher. It’s enough to hang one’s head in despair for common sense.

vigil in Roseberg

Yet, throughout history there has come a tipping point when enough people have awakened to the need for change. This was true with the great justice movements in US history: Abolition, women’s suffrage, civil rights, gay rights. Underlying these great historic events were years of effort and seeming failure until that time arose when enough people came together to usher in change.

I believe that in time reasonable gun controls will become the law of the land. In time enough of us will no longer accept the fear mongering of the NRA and the gun industry. In time we will no longer accept the resistance or inaction on the part of our elected officials.

Enough ‘stuff’ has happened. Enough lives full of promise have been extinguished. It’s long past time for a change. Will you add your voice and efforts and tip the scale? Will you say no to fear and yes to reasonable laws? Laws that allow us to send our kids to school and walk our streets with a greater sense of safety? We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for, the answer rests with us.

Tipping Point on Gun Control?

This weekend was emotionally draining for our nation as we grieved with the community of Newtown, CT.  We grieved for the mass shooting of 20 children and 7 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.   For those of us in Oregon our emotions were already raw from a shooting at a crowded mall a few days prior.  Each shooting was eerily similar.  Both murders were conducted by an estranged young man, armed with body armor and military type assault weapons and magazines of bullets. 

On Sunday morning we gathered as did people of faith around the country, to find hope in our faith and comfort in the company of one another.  We prayed for those who had lost loved one’s both in Oregon and Connecticut and for all who live in fear of further violence.  

In reflecting upon all this I wonder if we as a nation have reached a tipping point related to how we seek a balance between the right to bear arms guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment and the right for our people to live in safety.  Up to this point the NRA has driven our debate suggesting that any limitation on weapons is an assault on the 2nd amendment itself.  I believe that this is a false choice. In the aftermath of the mass murders at Sandy Hook this  reasoning has crumbled.  I think reasonable people are looking for a balance between individual rights and the well-being of the wider community. 

Yesterday Senator Manchin of West Virginia, a pro NRA member, called for a “sensible nationwide dialogue on gun control , where everything, should be on the table”.  Said the senator, “I don’t know anybody in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle.”  

On Sunday night  President Obama, spoke at an interfaith service in Newtown.  He said:  “We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

We wait to see what specific steps President Obama will introduce.  Senator Diane Feinstein has indicated that she will introduce legislation on a national level to ban assault weapons, similar to the ban that was in effect up till 2004.

Here in Oregon, two bills will be presented to the legislature at their winter session.   One bill will limit the sale of ‘oversized ammunition magazines’ such as used in the Oregon and Newtown shootings.  The other bill will ban the sale of assault weapons in Oregon.   For those who want to learn more go the web site of ‘Ceasefire Oregon’.

Up to this point, the strategy for proponents of unlimited access to firearms is to wait until the emotional upheaval from a mass shooting subsides.  This strategy was successful after Thurston, Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech etc.

Will they succeed again? Or, have we as a nation reached a tipping point?  The answer rests with each one of us.  Are we ready to say ‘enough’?