Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


BIDEN'S MODEST PROPOSAL PROTECTS LIVES AND GUN RIGHTS: If the members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation want to show they REALLY stand with the American people they have a chance to do it by passing the common-sense agenda President Joe Biden outlined Thursday in his nationally televised speech. Since the start of the year there have been 233 mass shootings nationwide, resulting in 261 deaths and 1,010 injuries – 8 in North Carolina with seven deaths and 28 injured. Isn’t it about time – after Buffalo, Uvalde, and Tulsa for that gratuitous symbolism to be backed up by notions of responsibility. Isn’t it about time our members of congress sided with the overwhelming majority of their constituents? Backing responsible gun purchase and ownership regulation won’t diminish anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights -- though it may cost a politician a few bucks from the NRA. But probably not. What it will do is restore some sanity to the nation’s firearms culture and definitely save some lives. It's long past time. AR-15s are easier to purchase than handguns, and ammunition for them is easier to purchase than cold medicine. Lawmakers have shirked their responsibility for way too long, and that needs to stop.

BURR AND TILLIS ARE THE NRA'S SMOKING GUNS: Burr and Tillis — who have, in the course of their political careers, received more support from the National Rifle Association than nearly any other sitting senator — have historically opposed most gun control legislation. They’ve voted down bills introduced in the wake of other mass shootings that would, for example, require universal background checks and close dangerous loopholes in existing law. There’s little indication that they won’t do the exact same thing now. In fact, when asked about it, they can hardly be bothered to muster a response. Neither Burr nor Tillis responded to an inquiry that PBS NewsHour sent to all 100 senators asking what action should be taken on gun laws. Some of their Republican colleagues did respond. The New York Times reached out to every Republican senator to ask whether they would support stronger background check legislation approved by the House last year. Both Burr and Tillis fell in the “Declined to answer or deflected” category. The Editorial Board also contacted Tillis and Burr’s offices to ask where they stand on gun legislation. We received no response. Tillis and Burr are quick to say what they don’t support — nearly everything, it seems — but rarely offer solutions of their own, even when asked directly. Do they think that the status quo is fine, despite the alarming frequency at which gun violence occurs? If that’s the case, they should say so. Own it, senators. That’s what leaders do. Two-Faced Tillis and Teflon Burr have made their careers out of the cowardly dodging of responsibility, while raking in millions in cash. And NC voters have tacitly approved that behavior for many years, by continuing to send them back to DC. Don't hold your breath waiting for either to do the right thing.

WE NEED THE PARADIGM TO CHANGE IN THE GUN VIOLENCE EPIDEMIC: This year, as has happened before, I am forced to ask myself about “our way of life.” We live in the wealthiest country in the world and are unable to protect elementary school children from wanton violence perpetrated in a recurring pattern involving firearms. We have only recently been unchained from federal legislation prohibiting funding for violence prevention studies directed at firearms. We resist looking at firearm violence as a public health problem and associate any efforts to control it as an assault on our individual liberty and right to bear arms. While the frequency of firearm injuries varies across the U.S., it is, in general, higher than in other economically developed countries. Violence in the form of homicide or suicide accounts for large numbers of deaths and injuries every day and firearm injuries now account for the greatest number of deaths in U.S. children and adolescents. WakeMed’s Level I Trauma Center is one of the busiest in the state. We put 4,800 patients in our trauma registry annually and about 20% are penetrating injuries, which are mostly gunshot wounds. 10% of those gunshot wounds are children who accidentally shot themselves or who were shot by someone else. Reasonable efforts to restrict access to firearms from behaviorally stressed individuals, requirements for training and safe storage, de-escalation of political acrimony and addressing known social inequities in vulnerable areas are efforts that could immediately start to turn the tide without taking away our right to bear arms. The gun-nuts love to talk about the "slippery slope" of gun control; but the whole time we've been sliding into a free-fire zone. Infuriating.

IS IT TIME FOR OPEN CASKETS AGAIN? In 1955 when the body of 14-year-old Emmett Till arrived home to Chicago, the only thing that identified him was a ring. His swollen body was missing teeth, an ear was severed, and an eye hung out after he had been kidnapped, tortured, shot, wrapped in barbed wire attached to a heavy fan, and dumped into the Tallahatchie River by two white men in Money, Mississippi. His mother, Ms. Elizabeth Till-Mobley, saw the body of her only child and made a courageous decision. She told the mortician to leave her son as he was and insisted on an open casket so that all the world could see the horrific acts committed against her son by white men. Now, here we are all these years later and more children and their teachers have again been brutally murdered. Young, small, precious bodies in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas so mangled by bullets that DNA is needed to identify some of them. Mutilated like the body of Emmett Till. The photographs we see of the victims are ones made in happier times like when a 10-year-old holds a certificate for making his school’s honor roll. Or a photograph of a smiling teacher likely taken for the school web page. Happy faces. Clean clothes. Life at its fullest. No photographs of mutilated bodies, body parts separated from their body, blood, and gore. Open caskets! Awful and even grotesque when they show the result of the carnage caused against a 75-pound body by an AR-15 rifle. Perhaps it is time for another brave decision such as the one made by Ms. Till. I endorse this approach. For too long we have shied away from the horror of gun violence, and that has simply allowed it to perpetuate. We need to take a good, long look, as hard as that may be to endure.

MAKE NO MISTAKE, IT'S THE GUNS THAT MAKE US DIFFERENT: As you’ve no doubt heard or read, in the aftermath of the recent horrific mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, the claim goes something like this: “There is a crisis of morality in our country today. The fact that so many of these terrible shootings were committed by disturbed young men is indicative of a breakdown in the moral order of society. Kids are rudderless today. They spend their time online and don’t go to church or synagogue anymore.” As one exponent of this argument put it in a radio conversation in which she and I debated the topic last week, the problem is traceable to the demise of the traditional family structure that goes back to the 1970s. You got that? The American gun violence crisis – like, one presumes, just about every other flaw that one can identify in the modern world, from COVID-19 to opioid deaths to the immigration dilemma – aren’t byproducts of ignorance, greed or inaction; they’re the result of a decline in “morality.” It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at this narrative, but one thing that that must clearly be done is to brand it for the hogwash it is. The mass murder epidemic in America is undoubtedly the byproduct of many noxious and deeply troubling forces. And it’s clear we could make some progress in curbing it if we invested vastly more public funds in mental health services, school counselors and psychologists, and a social safety net that would provide a measure of hope and security for everyone. But ultimately, it’s undeniable that what sets our nation apart from the rest of the advanced world is the easy access we allow to firearms — even those of military grade. See my comment below for more on this religion distraction.


MELANIE WALKER: BAN ASSAULT RIFLES, NOT LEARNING MATERIALS: When I saw the headline “NC Senate passes bill banning K-3 instruction on LGBT issues,” (June 2), my eyes first only noticed the word “ban.” I thought it might be about assault weapons. I couldn’t help but be disgusted when I read the rest of the headline — it was not about guns, our children, and the carnage happening in our public schools. It was about banning LGBTQ issues from being taught. The hypocrisy stunned me. How sad for us all. Fictional monsters are easier to slay than real ones.

KARA GENSOR: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THOSE FLASHCARDS: Regarding “LGBTQ themed flash cards removed from preschool classroom,” (May 29): State Rep. Erin Pare deemed the LGBTQ-themed flashcards used in a Wake County Public School System preschool inappropriate because they contained a pregnant man. (Personally, I see two women on the card, one with long hair and one with short hair.) The flashcards depict different family units, because in America, the family unit consisting of a white mom and a white dad is not the norm. Families consist of all types, including gay women. There is nothing inappropriate about a same-sex couple. More than 20 million Americans identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Same-sex marriage is legal. Around 4 million children are being raised by an LGBTQ+ parent. Representation is always appropriate; bigotry is never appropriate. Republicans like Pare have no genuine policy ideas, so they fall back on bigotry to fill in that substance gap. Always have, always will.

LEVINA KOLLAR: APPARENTLY PROTECTION ENDS AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR: As parents prepare for the birth of a baby, they secure a crib with closely fitted parallel slats to protect their newborn, the crib being only one item among many necessary for the baby’s safety and comfort. A car seat to transport their baby home from the hospital, required by law, a safe stroller, clothing infused with a fire repellent, and toys, certified safe, are among the other items needed to protect their newborn. When the baby becomes a toddler and begins to explore the neighborhood a bit, a helmet now offers protection for falls he/she may have, replaced later with another one for bicycle safety. Within their home, parents put materials out of the reach of the child and check to ensure that any medications have mandated child-resistant caps. When the child turns 5, this precious protected one heads to elementary school, where there is no regulation, no law for protection against the carnage of a semi-automatic weapon created for military use but easily purchased by any 18-year-old. We protect our children in their preschool years, yet many legislators are unwilling to extend any regulations to the heinous weapons that kill our children. It makes absolutely no sense, until you look at how it benefits the gun lobby. Gun sales spike after mass shootings, because people fear (and rightly so) that their government can't or won't protect them, or their children. And each purchase adds hundreds of dollars to their profit margins.



The hand of Man vs. the hand of God

When I was a child, we attended church (Baptist) on pretty much a weekly basis. Or I should say we kids and our mom attended, while my dad played golf. Which is understandable, considering how much our country club membership probably cost. When my paternal grandmother came to visit, he dutifully attended with us, but one of my sisters always asked, "Is the golf course closed today, dad?" Sometimes it's the little things that make life so enjoyable...

Anyway, it wasn't your "fire and brimstone"-type Baptist church, it was more Methodisty than anything. But later in life, I fell (hard) for a fundamentalist. I figured I could change her, and she figured the opposite. And you're right, that generally doesn't work. I tell you that so you will understand: I've read the bible in faith, and I've read it in the classroom. I attended Campbell University, which (in case you didn't know it) is a Christian school. 3 semesters of required bible study, but luckily my professors weren't thumpers, so it was more of an intellectual experience than spiritual.

Along the way I detected (several) logical potholes in both the bible and the organized community of the Southern Baptist flavor. The conflict between predestination and free will being one of the main ones, and we see that writ large today. The following will likely offend many, so if you're one who embraces blind faith, you might want to move along. Don't say I didn't warn you...

If you see the hand of God in action frequently, in issues of life and death or the scarcity of toilet paper or baby formula, you have taken a wrong turn somewhere. If God does exist, he (or she) is not conducting an orchestra, or constantly putting challenges in front of literally billions of individual people on a daily basis. It would take a million (billion?) gods to do that, to not only process the data but to act on each data point.

"But Steve, that's where faith comes in!"

What? If you mean faith provides the energy (computing power) that God needs to operate that system, I might be willing to discuss it. It provides, however unlikely, a vehicle to somewhat comply with the natural laws of the Universe. It at least gives a nod to the conservation of energy.

But if you mean blind faith; believing in something just because, and refusing to question any aspects of it, then no. That's not faith, it's delusion.

But let's forget about natural laws for a moment, and look at the effects of such a belief system. How it renders people helpless to change the things that need to be changed. How it provides them an easy excuse to do nothing. Nothing but post an emoji of praying hands on a Facebook post. Which, by the way, goes against biblical teaching:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others."

I'm not telling you not to pray. I am telling you I don't need (or want) to know about it. 'Nuff said on that.

On the issue of predestination, the entire story being already written, this also encourages literally doing nothing to prevent children being massacred in their schools, elderly being gunned down in the produce department. When something that heinous is attributed to "God's will," you are in effect creating a monster. And one that you worship, no less. Shame on you.

We have free will. Whether we were granted that free will by some higher power or whether it evolved along with our sentience really doesn't matter. We have it, and we must use it. And that means regulating our society to protect the innocent. To shield them from brutality. To do anything less is sheer irresponsibility, God or no god.

Failure to act is not acceptable, or debatable, for that matter. If you don't have the courage to do so, don't run for office. It's that simple.