Attending the Million Moms Against Gun Violence Rally at the Chicago Temple last week provided a stark glimpse into the two communities represented there. There was a group of individuals drawn to the rally by the recent public and media uproar over gun violence alongside the parents and siblings of street violence victims. The ten-year-old boy who described a brother whom he would never know, a mother whose six year old daughter was killed by a random shot while playing on the front porch. The tears flowed freely as one could not resist the sadness for the victims of senseless violence. Even as the hundreds of people met and shared stories within that sacred space, a few blocks away two more names were added to the list of 89 people whose lives were lost to gun violence this year in Chicago. One month in Chicago is one Newtown, one Aurora, one Littleton.
The common theme was a bullet that took a life too short.
Craig Whitney, a New York Times editor, said ‘Americans identify themselves in part by metaphors and symbols based on firearms and myths whose power derives from their basis in truth’, citing the gunslingers of the American West and the many other images that we have grown up with. Those images have now been replaced with movies such as ‘A Bullet to the Head’ and video games like Mortal Kombat and Medal of Honor. We do not know if violent video games cause mass shootings and gang violence but we do know that playing those games leads to certain desensitization to violence, the anonymity of a victim. The streets and schools have become shooting galleries, except the victims are our children.
While some would say this is about the Second Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court has already denied that approach. The Court has decreed that the right to bear arms necessary to a well regulated militia apparently overrides the right of my children to life, liberty and the pursuit of their dreams. Even Justice Scalia has stated that the Second Amendment right to own firearms is not unlimited. So this should not be about the ability of an individual of sound mind who passes a background check to own a gun for protection or hunting. This is about assault weapons whose sole purpose is to kill people.
In the summer of 1968, following the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F Kennedy, Senator Joseph Tydings of Maryland appealed to the nation for effective gun violence prevention legislation, ‘It is just tragic that in all of Western civilization the United States is the one country with an insane gun policy.’ What was true in 1968 is even more apparent in 2013. Little has changed except that the list of victims has grown exponentially. Do we have the resolve to address the issue of gun violence? We say, ‘Enough is enough.’ It is time to move on.
Dr. Mark Rosenberg, MD FAAP, is an Illinois pediatrician in community practice and has been involved with the American Academy of Pediatrics and Voices for Illinois Children.