By Rep. Darrio Melton
Last week, an armed gunman walked into a church in South Carolina and took nine innocent lives.
For the past few days, I’ve struggled with what to say and how to process this information. “It’s a terrible tragedy” doesn’t even come close to summarize the pain we are feeling as a nation. We know this script by now: a shooting occurs, gunman is caught, we learn about the shooter’s dark past, we mourn our losses, we convict the guilty and we move on.
Until it happens again.
And the fact is, it happens too often. It was a “terrible tragedy” when two teenagers opened fire in a high school cafeteria in 1999. It was a “terrible tragedy” when a gunman killed 33 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. It was a “terrible tragedy” when 12 were killed and 58 injured in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and again when 20 children were killed in their classrooms in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. It was a “terrible tragedy” in the Navy Yard in 2013; it was a “terrible tragedy” in Charleston last week; and it will be a “terrible tragedy” again next time.
The truth is, it will happen again. And it will continue to happen because we’re too afraid to do anything about it as a society.
We live in a country where we send troops to all corners of the globe to fight terrorism, but can’t seem to find steps possible to prevent attacks by Americans on Americans here at home.
Take for example, early Monday morning in Kabul. Two were killed and 30 injured when a suicide car bomber and six gunmen launched an attack on the Afghan Parliament. The Taliban has taken credit for the attacks. According to The Guardian, “The attack raises new questions over Afghanistan ability to maintain security without Nato’s help.”
The only difference between the attacks in Afghanistan and the attacks in America is that we’ve been trained to view the Taliban as our enemies, while the attackers here in America could be anyone’s next door neighbor. We’re undergoing Taliban-caliber terrorist attacks, yet it never raises any questions over America’s ability to maintain security.
We have to demand better. We have to make the violence in our communities stop. That goes for anyone and everyone, regardless of race, religion or origin. It’s time to heal America and demand safety for our families and our futures.
It’s time to look at common sense gun reform. It’s time to rebuild and repair our struggling mental health system. It’s time to call and tell the authorities if you know someone who may be planning something, even if you think they might just be kidding. It’s time for each of us to step up and do our part to make America the nation it was set out to be.
Rep. Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.