Trayvon Martin, who would have turned 18 years old today, last year became the symbol of debating “Stand Your Ground” laws after he was shot to death while unarmed by a private citizen.
More recently, there have been a series of fatal mass shootings throughout America, the most infamous being the killing of school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Last week, Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old who performed with her school marching band at the recent presidential inauguration in D.C., was gunned down about one mile away from the Obama residence in South Side Chicago.
Too many of our children are dying due to violence, and the issue is greater than new gun control legislation.
Don’t get me wrong. I am in favor of restricting high capacity magazines and assault weapons. There is no need for private citizens to have access to 75 round or 100 round drums for home defense or deer hunting. I am for mandatory background checks of every gun purchaser as well as a system to flag individuals from purchasing weapons who have been soundly diagnosed with having serious mental illness issues. I’m also in favor of stiffer penalties for gun runners.
However, I firmly believe that legislation is a small piece of the puzzle in the effort to curtail violence and murder in America.
Let’s face it, America is the most dangerous nation in the “developed world.” Not only are we the most armed country in the world, which gun control laws will not readily change, but we have staggering violent crime rates, one of the world’s largest consumption rates of illicit narcotics and the world’s largest prison population, even more than authoritative China, which has triple our population.
There is something violent about our cultural DNA. As we have become a more individualistic society and less community orientated, we’ve had slow erosion of our national soul. Too many of us are more connected to technological gadgets such as smartphones than knowing the condition of our neighbors and their children.
We are a nation that has become numb to the reality that our military has killed almost one million human beings, many of them women and children, in Afghanistan and Iraq in a response to three thousand Americans who were murdered on 9/11. Though we are a “religious” people, our primary problem relating to violence in America is spiritual.
Considering others’ feelings, caring for the plight of the weak in society and valuing de-escalation of conflict cannot be legislated. These are spiritual values that must be truly part of our national fiber in words and deeds that are exemplified by parents, school teachers, sports coaches, clergy members and politicians. These have been on a steady decline in recent years, in particular from our politicians.
I believe that until we place concerted effort on cultivating these values that no one or two pieces of legislation will significantly reduce the bloodshed that goes on in America, from Detroit and Chicago to Aurora and Newtown.