this land of the free, where gun-rights zealots tell us that guns
don't kill people, people do, no one wants to assume responsibility
for the proliferation of firearms. With each passing massacre, we
pass the buck. We deny our moral, legal and ethical responsibilities.
We blame the gunman, and absolve ourselves.
case in point is Edward Henson, owner
of the St. Lucie Shooting Center, a gun store. Henson, a retired
New York City police officer, sold the AR-15 military-grade assault
rifle and 9 mm pistol used by Omar Mateen to kill 49 people and wound
the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
conference this week, Henson made his position clear:
everything was done by the book, so don't blame him.
would like to avoid any political issues and stick to the facts
regarding this case. An evil person came here and he legally
purchased two firearms from us," Henson said. "And if he
hadn't purchased it from us, I'm sure he would've gotten them from
another local gun store in the area. This man held multiple security
licenses. He had an armed and an unarmed license. He passed a
background check that every single person that purchases a firearm in
the state of Florida undergoes ...
have a business," Henson said. "I follow the
law, I don't make the law."
one suggests Henson broke the law: he has a right to choose to
participate in the legal gun industry that funnels firearms into the
population at a staggering rate. And Florida, unlike states such as
California and New York, allows the general public to buy assault
rifles meant for warfare. Making it legal doesn't make it right, as
someone must take responsibility.
the powerful lobby known as the National Rifle Association bears some
blame. According to a 2014
report from the Violence Policy Center and Amnesty
International, the NRA "has received an estimated tens of
millions of dollars from the firearms industry to support political
lobbying and firearm marketing efforts."
report continued that the pro-gun organization "uses its
financial capital to influence politicians at the state and federal
levels of government to support or oppose specific pieces of
legislation despite the negative consequences associated with it."
NRA rubs salt in the wound when it markets
to children, in an effort to replace its dwindling customer base
of aging white men. Further, the group encourages
parents to store firearms in their children's bedrooms,
children's fairytales with firearms figuring prominently.
Congress is culpable when its members accept money from the
a system of legalized bribery that corrupts lawmakers, and
prevents them from passing any sensible gun regulations, including
gun bans for suspected terrorists. In addition, Congress
has restricted federal
funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for
gun violence research, severely limiting America's ability to address
guns as a public health issue.
the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia bore responsibility in
opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, a hat-tip to the
NRA worldview that the Second Amendment protects
an individual right to gun ownership, rather than military duty.
The NRA has
rewritten, if not whitewashed, an amendment that was used
to preserve slavery and control the
a case of American exceptionalism no other country would wish to
emulate, the United States -- with less than 5% of the world's
population -- has as many as half of the world's civilian-owned
firearms, according to a
report from the Small Arms Survey. Over
300 million guns is simply unsustainable.
the U.S. comes in first place in guns per capita, and has the highest
firearm homicide rate of the most advanced countries in the world.
study published in the American Journal of Medicine in
February found that Americans are 10 times more likely to be shot to
death than people in other wealthy countries. Our firearm murder rate
is 25 times higher than 22 other developed nations, and our gun
suicide rate is eight times higher.
the shootings such as Orlando take place, we hear empty platitudes
from politicians who urge prayer. This, as no one asks why a civilian
needs a military weapon whose only purpose was effectively
demonstrated by Omar Mateen. The successful filibuster in the U.S.
Senate to force a vote on gun control is promising, but only a first
step. Our nation's leader should be running toward this problem.
is the time to take collective responsibility on guns rather than
observe a moment of silence.
This commentary originally appeared in CNN.com