I saw the Breaking News bulletin scroll onto the screen and my stomach tied in knots. MASS SHOOTING AT ORLANDO NIGHTCLUB LEAVES AT LEAST 20 DEAD. Throughout the day as details trickled in and press conferences created a fuller picture it became clear an act of domestic terrorism occurred and left 49 people dead. It doesn’t matter that the Pulse was a gay nightclub or the shooter a self-proclaimed Islamic terrorist. This horrible crime affects everyone in the community and even impacts those of us in prison.
My first thought was “Oh no. Not again.” Mass shootings in America have become this frequent occurrence where nothing seems to be done to prevent or reduce such horrific events other than hyper-militarize the police. Brief forays in the gun control argument are made and this time it seems that a larger number of democratic politicians have taken a stand (or a sit down protest) to decry the ease with which assault rifles are sold. To what end if the gun lobbying of the NRA supplants the sense of a republican controlled legislature? Their fear-mongering that every gun will be taken up makes the idea of reasonable gun control measures an impossible endeavor. There is a common argument that law abiding citizens should not be punished for the acts of a handful of criminals who abuse the loopholes in state and federal gun laws. Perhaps if those loopholes and flaws in the enforcement of current gun laws didn’t exist more mass shootings could be prevented.
No one should have to experience the tragedy of losing loved ones to violent crime, especially when it can be prevented. Many people agree on this point, but not on the solution. Never the solution. There are a number of us on death row who know tragedy firsthand and commiserate with the victims and their families. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Always.
The following two posts from Paul Brown and Leroy Mann are friends who wanted to add their words and thoughts to my own. You can find more of their writing at:
http://voicesfromdeathrow.over-blog.com (login: Paris; password: raleigh)
Guest Post by Paul Brown
When I first heard of the tragedy in Orlando, I was sickened. From tragedy experienced in my own life, I know the feeling of powerlessness, and just an utter debilitating sadness.
After the fact, knowing there’s simply nothing you can do is hard to take, and awfully difficult to accept.
But I also recall the kindness of others. People said they were praying for me, and while that may not seem like much, it was comforting.
I’m praying for the people in Orlando.
Seated As One
by Leroy E. Mann, NC Death Row Prisoner
Re: “Shoot, that was easy” by Helen Ubinas, Philadelphia Daily News Columist (6/14/16)
Seven minutes is all it takes to own the weaponry suited for soldiers putting their lives on the line for the stars and stripes that represent this country’s freedom. Seven whole minutes . . . the difference between patriot and domestic terrorist.
The recent sit-in protest concerning gun control legislation is an action that is long overdue. 200 democratic leaders, led by Georgia Rep John Lewis shouted, “No bill, no break,” on the floor of the House chamber. After the worst mass shooting in American history, the whole world is watching the US.
It is unfortunate that we are a culture empowered by guns. On television and in our movies, guns are a stronghold that our children identify with whenever they are rewarded with water guns, cap guns, B.B. guns, and plastic M-16s. How is this any different than giving a child a replica of a suicide bomber’s vest for Christmas? Or a rope that assimilates a hangman’s noose as a birthday gift?
Our country’s progression is handicapped by the easy access to firearms that are constructed for the purpose of holding down battlefields – not for the sake of unleashing terror on an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut or a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This is why I applaud the cavalier journalism of Helen Ubinas. Her gritty style of “getting the story”, demonstrated that it only took seven minutes to buy an AR-15. Approximately 8 days prior to the efforts of democrats to shut down the House’s legislative work.
Gat, tool, heat, hammer, sender, strap, steel and cannon. Colloquialisms that make firearms synonymous with crime. “My Uzzi Weighs a Ton”, “Tons of Guns”, “Pass Me the Gat” and “Reign of the Tec” is a soundtrack which perpetuates the stigma of a gun being a sensible resolution. I guess this is why a middle-aged Latino woman had no problem walking into a Philly gun shop and purchasing an AR-15 assault rifle during her lunch break.
“Turns out I don’t need a story. The AR-15 is on display in the window of the gun shop. It is being promoted as the gun of the week,” she says while carrying a cardboard box over half her height. Just think about the burning scent a cap gun leaves after each trigger thrust. Or, how about the dialogue between kids when another doesn’t respect the rules of being shot while playing Cops & Robbers:
“You dead. I shot chu when you was hidin behind the statue.”
“No I ain’t. Cause I shot chut a long time ago when you tried to hide behind the car.”
These are the words of make believe, today. But what do these words say about the future of this country?
If acquiring an assault rifle is as simple as presenting valid identification proving your American citizenry, and $759.99, then Helen’s summation reads more like a cautionary tale rather than a citizen being cautiously optimistic,
“If nothing changed after children—babies—were slaughtered inside their school, do any of us really believe anything will change following the deaths of people so many fear and loathe simply for trying to live their truth?”
It took more time for her to turn the gun into the police than it did to make the purchase. As she filled out the lengthy paperwork, she noticed a sign hanging on the wall in the police station, “United We Stand”.
What is it that we are standing for as a country, when the barbarity of a few is laying down Americans in masses? There must be a vote on measures to expand background checks and block gun purchases. “No bill, no break” is why the House chamber floor is covered with seated Democrats. United so that it is safe to stand again.