The Republican-controlled Michigan Senate, which just last week voted to basically approve some wacko guns-for-all legislation as a perversely misguided deterrent against gun violence (exposing a soft-brained mentality that likely would also approve putting out fires with blow torches and gasoline), should be reminded of an old saying; be careful of the company you keep because the company you keep reflects who’s keeping you.
OK, maybe that’s my own saying, but you get the point. And in Detroit, as if we didn’t have enough to be alarmed about, this is definitely cause for alarm. And action.
A little over a month ago, in the midst of all the feel-good about Detroit’s continued revival, we were once again saddled with the title of Most Violent City in America by the FBI near the end of September. To say the least, that puts a bit of a damper on all the enthusiasm.
For the record, Detroit Police Chief James Craig disputes the numbers and says that instead of going up by nearly 15 percent, violent crimes actually declined in the city by 5 %. Hopefully he’s right, but the FBI numbers are the ones that rang out and will likely continue to ring out.
Within a matter of days from that sobering announcement, on October 1, the worst mass shooting in recorded American history occurred at a country music festival in Las Vegas. Nearly 60 people were gunned down and killed – and another 530 injured – by a shooter aiming at the fleeing crowd target practice-style from a hotel window high above the crowd. Once the smoke had cleared and the blood had been washed away, the record books had to once again be adjusted; the June 2016 shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 people, is now the second deadliest attack, followed by the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, which killed 26 people, most of them children. I read another pundit’s column recently who said that the day we became numb to the mass murder of children was the day when the battle against guns and gun violence was lost and America truly lost its soul. I hope he’s wrong but I believe he’s probably right.
About a month later, on November 5, came the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. It happened on a Sunday and 26 people were slaughtered by Devin Patrick Kelley, who is also accused of wounding an additional 20 more for no real reason at all except that maybe he was mad about something at home. Or something. Whatever it was, it had nothing to do with the people he murdered except that they were in the way of his bullets.
Which brings us back to our beloved and tone-deaf Michigan Senate which, days after the slaughter, thought it would be a good idea to allow guns in previously gun-free zones like churches and schools. You know, for protection and stuff.
The Republican-led Senate approved the bills sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof.
“I thought after this most recent one: People are not given the opportunity to defend themselves and they are sitting ducks in these pistol-free zones,” Meekhof is quoted as telling a group of reporters after the vote in the Detroit Free Press. “It is the right time to have this discussion. It is the time to make sure law-abiding, highest-trained gun owners in America be able to defend themselves in pistol-free zones.”
More Americans have died from gunshots in the last 50 years than in all of the wars in American history, according to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 1968, more than 1.5 million Americans have died in gun-related incidents. By comparison, NBC News says that “approximately 1.2 million service members have been killed in every war in U.S. history, according to estimates from the Department of Veterans Affairs and iCasualties.org, a website that maintains an ongoing database of casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The CDC also says that black children faced the highest rates of gun-related homicides, at 3.5 for every 100,000, which is nearly 10 times the rate for white children from 2002 to 2014. Gun-related deaths also disproportionately affect young boys and older children. Researchers found that gun-related deaths, injuries and homicides are higher among boys ages 13 to 17 than teen girls and younger boys.
And unless Chief Craig is right, Detroit is the most violent city in America. This is something that requires more than thoughts and prayers, because my guess is that those 26 people mowed down in Texas had already been doing a lot of praying before they were murdered. Same goes for those nine folks murdered in June 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina, by Dylann Roof, the young white supremacist who accepted their invitation to pray with them before dispatching them.
In Detroit, the last thing we need in our churches, or anywhere else, is another excuse to carry a gun.