We the People: Responding to the mass shooting in Charleston

“Always remember, others may hate you. But those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them and then you destroy yourself.”

In Charleston, blacks, whites, Christians and Jews gathered together let the world know that a racist coward with a gun could not divide the community which already endured the fatal police shooting in April of Walter Scott, an unarmed African‑American.

New Yorkers kept vigil the night following the mass murder of nine people gathered for Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The victims were all African-American, ranged in age from 26 to 87 and included the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the church pastor and a prominent state senator.

A demented and cowardly 21-year-old white man motivated by hate and fear sat with the church members for an hour before he began to scream complaints about African‑Americans. He produced a concealed handgun and proceeded to murder the people who had just welcomed him into their church. The heinous and senseless mass murder stunned people around the world.

Whether this tragedy is called a hate crime, terrorism or just plain evil is not what is important, but what is vital for our society is to take action to remove the ability for the mentally unstable and criminally-inclined members of our society from gaining legal access to firearms. Oh yes, the instrument of this unbelievable act was legally obtained.

What is important is for Americans to come together, stay engaged and find out why so many people feel empowered to act out on a feeling or whim without any acknowledgment of the gravity or moral wrongness of their actions.

President Obama identified the issues of race and hate and the systemic relation of guns and violence repeated in the tragedy in Charleston. He said, “Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”

Unbelievably, an NRA board member, Charles Cotton, blamed the cold-blooded massacre at the church on the slain pastor’s opposition to concealed-carry legislation in South Carolina.

Pinckney voted against concealed‑carry guns in establishments that serve alcohol and called for strict background checks for all gun owners. Cotton stated that State Senator Pinckney and “eight of his church members … might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church … Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

Cotton, a leader of the Texas State Rifle Association, was assailed previously for writing that disciplining a child by corporal punishment may prevent “having to put a bullet in him later.” This unbelievable nonsense comes from a person who claims to be a leader fighting for citizen’s constitutional rights.

We need our elected representatives to disavow the gun manufacturing industry and refuse the money they spread around even if channeled through various groups. The people must gather, meet and take action in order for this tragedy and countless ones like it to have significance as an impetus for change instead of merely another incident to be mourned. The people deserve and need reasonable and sensible federal gun legislation since it is obvious that the states cannot provide consistent and adequate gun laws.

An NYPD police officer had his throat slashed by a violent perpetrator in Brooklyn. A young man was shot and killed in Coney Island. Yet Mayor de Blasio still refuses to apply more resources from a record budget surplus for hiring more police officers.

Every citizen should be concerned about the rise in shootings in New York City. There is no question that we have fewer officers on the force and therefore less personnel to patrol the streets and prevent gun violence. The deterrent effect of more officers on the street is something all New Yorkers deserve.

The mayor is sure that spending hundreds of thousands on overtime for overworked officers is a better solution. He said, “I think they’re going to get better and better.” Does that mean we are worse off with 1,000 or 500 additional police officers? I don’t think so. It is time to put some money where it will best help tax-paying citizens of this city: safe streets.


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