Background check is the least that should be done

Appropriating Franklin D. Roosevelt, May 2022 will likely be a month that will live in infamy. The May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School school in Uvalde, Texas, still has many of us reeling.

From Columbine, Colo. (1999) to Virginia Tech (2005) to Sandy Hook, Conn. (2012) to the Navy Yard in Washington (2013) to Oregon (2015) to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (2016) to Sutherland Springs in Texas (2017) to Parkland, Fla. (2018) to El Paso, Texas (2019). Last month we experienced two horrific mass shootings — Uvalde and a supermarket in Buffalo, NY, where 10 Black people were killed.

Through them all, we find ourselves circling back while pondering the same set of questions and harboring the same set of emotions.

I do not have children, but I’m still mad as hell about what happened. Upon hearing the tragic news, my heart ached, skipped beats and my blood boiled. One can only imagine what the parents are enduring. Seeing these photos of those precious little children whose innocent lives were snatched from them by a sadistic monster is nothing short of heartbreaking.

We’ve already begun to hear the same obligatory comments from politicians from across the political spectrum: “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” “We must pass laws to prohibit such acts from occurring,” “We need to address the issue of mental health,” “We cannot trample on the 2nd amendment,” and so on.

In regard to donating resources to mental health, I fully concur with such an effort. Truth be told, however, the vast majority of people who suffer from mental health issues do not murder anyone, let alone savagely venture on wanton mass murder sprees.

The truth is that a person cannot purchase certain prescription drugs, operate a semi automatic tractor, purchase an automobile, adopt certain pets, purchase a vehicle or certain other items without a background check. Yet, incredibly, in a number of states, including Texas, they can legally purchase firearms.

The deceased 18-year-old shooter would not have been able to purchase a drink at a bar or alcohol at any winery or beer store because he had not reached his 21st birthday, yet is granted permission to purchase all the ammunition he wants. That defies pure logic and common sense.

There have been some individuals — including Sen. Christopher Murphy of Connecticut, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, and Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers — who have stepped up, issuing blistering statements decrying such animalistic behavior. Murphy’s impassioned response to Uvalde was elegant, yet candid, and pulls no punches:

“What are we doing? There have been more mass shootings [than] days in the year. Our kids are living in fear every single time they set foot in the classroom because they think they’re going to be next. What are we doing? Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate, why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job of putting yourself in a position of authority if your answer is that, as this slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing? What are we doing? Why are you here if not to solve a problem as existential as this. … This isn’t inevitable. The kids weren’t unlucky. It only happens in this country.”

Rational Americans are getting sick and tired of the ongoing litany of redundant commentary from gun manufacturers, right wing politicians and others who continue to look for scapegoats instead of deciding to confront the issue. Such deflection denial and doublespeak by deeply flawed, arguably amoral individuals is wearing thin.

We have been down this dead end road far too many times. It is long past time to make a dramatic U-turn.

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.