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Tom Watkins
Tom Watkins

Gun Violence is Killing America

October 13, 2017 

“Why does your government not do something about the senseless gun violence in America?” This has been the constant question I have been asked as I travel across China as more human carnage was unleashed in Las Vegas. Yes indeed, why isn’t our government taking action to address this madness?

No, I am not suggesting that we adopt a Chinese model of gun control– but to do nothing is as perplexing to me as it is to the countless average Chinese citizens who cannot understand the inaction. Hiding behind the 2nd Amendment as a rationale for not finding common ground on gun control and other sensible actions is absurd. To once again place a band aid—or provide no aid—to combat this violence is incomprehensible.

Outside of those regions who are at war with their neighbors and themselves, America holds the dubious distinction of being number one in the world in the slaughter of innocent people from handguns wielded by our fellow human beings.
Collectively we ought to be embarrassed, ashamed and disgusted. Yet what we are is divided.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln, the public voice for rationality proclaimed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” He might just as well have been prophesying our 21st Century future.  As a nation, we should not be continually witnessing the senseless slaughter of innocent citizens by our own people just because we are petrified to seek common sense solutions in dealing with gun violence in our country.

Rather than coming together to seek a shared vision and common agenda on our national human stain, we retreat to our respective political corners and shoot political talking points from the left and the right at each other. It is absurd. It is tragic. This must end if the violence against each other is to end.

When will enough be enough of senseless gun violence?

It matters not whether it occurs every day on the streets of Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., or whether it emanates from a gunman who opens fire in a community college in Oregon, or in schools in Newtown and Charleston. These massacres have become all too common.  Our national pain will not fade until our nation’s leaders take decisive action on multiple fronts to address this violent horror in our midst.

Yet, once again, politicians merely debate who is at fault. Let me make it easy for them — we all are at fault.  If we do not come together now as a nation to address this madness, we risk giving up the very soul from which this great nation began.
When are Americans going to recognize that senseless slaughter can be minimized and prevented if we mesh quality mental health services with sensible, enforceable, and strong gun ownership laws? When will we demand that violence not be peddled as the norm which passes for entertainment in our living rooms and movie houses?

At a minimum, our national response must address the current easy access to guns and make sure there is appropriate treatment for people with mental illness.
When will the “pols” in Congress be made to fear the wrath of the American voter’s power more than the loss of support from the National Rifle Association?
Americans say they are fed up with senseless gun violence. But haven’t we as a nation grown far too complacent about protecting the status quo? That very status quo is killing our citizens and rotting the moral fabric of this country from the inside out.

America, we have a problem.  When the rate of children killed by guns in the United States is 19.5 times higher than similar high-income countries in the world, America we have a problem.  It will take no less than an intense, well-funded campaign to get Congressional votes to help mandate a stop to the gun madness in this country. Thoughtful Americans must organize and advocate for a balanced approach to gun law in America including, at a minimum:

  • Establishment of sensible gun controls allowing for sale and legitimate gun ownership for sport, self-protection or collection purposes. Ban the sale of assault weapons with ammunition clips capable of shooting dozens of high-powered bullets in seconds.
  • Address the culture of violence perpetuated by Hollywood, the video and entertainment industries. Video games, masquerading as “entertainment,” are corrosive to young minds and do not support a healthy and stable society.
  • Make available—and affordable—quality mental health services for people with serious mental illness. Start the conversation about the use of these services in our communities to help each other. Stress efforts to end the stigma that often prevents persons in need from seeking treatment. 

Creating sensible laws, keeping weapons off our streets and out of the hands of deranged people — this is not a violation of America’s Second Amendment right. Sensible gun laws do not interfere with the rights of legitimate gun ownership. Anything less is inadequate.  The most recent Pew Research Center survey about gun rights and control pointed out: “Almost eight in 10 people surveyed support laws to prevent people suffering from mental illness buying firearms, while 70 per cent backed the creation of a database on gun sales and almost 60 per cent wanted to see assault weapons banned.”

As a nation, we are literally killing ourselves.

I believe we as a nation are capable of solving the most intractable problems if we, the American people come together and act. As a nation, those innocents who died deserve more than mere condolences.  Gun madness is killing Americans. For God’s sake — and ours — let’s DO something.

Tom Watkins is a former Michigan state superintendent of schools, state director of mental health and president and CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. He can be emailed at: tdwatkins88@gmail.com, or followed on twitter at:@tdwatkins88


October 12, 2017 · Filed under Tom Watkins



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