Something is wrong with us. Yes, us. Here in the United States.
Us. US. U.S.
Just this past weekend, we had mass shootings at a garlic festival in northern California, at a block party in Brooklyn, and at a Walmart store in northwestern Mississippi. And there were five more.
They’re happening so fast, we can’t even keep up.
And then there’s Birmingham, where it seems the nightly news opens every day with another violent shooting or three within Jefferson County. It might be in Bessemer or Fairfield or Ensley or Gardendale or Hoover or at Marks Village, where a 4-year-old girl was shot in the head in her home after two idiots outside decided to settle their differences with a gun.
The Southern border is a mess, that’s true, with desperate immigrants trying to find a better life here. The heroin and opioid crisis is real, with deadly overdoses at record levels.
But there’s also a gun violence crisis in this state and countrybecause of our wrongheaded worship of the Second Amendment, and it’s out of control.
Gun violence is this country’s most critical national emergency. We love our guns, and our guns are killing people, most often ourselves, as suicide by firearms continues to climb.
And here’s the real punch in the gut: We are the only developed nation – the ONLY one in the world – where gun violence is so rampant and out of control.
Our culture is guns, and that culture is killing us and our children and our humanity.
Attorney Karen McClure knows about gun violence. As the local group lead in Birmingham for Moms Demand Action, her life’s focus is to help limit the destruction guns cause. She’s not some wild-eyed, anti-gun liberal. She’s a Homewood mom witha 6-year-old and a 9-year-old who doesn’t want to see them taken down in the next school shooting or festival shooting or restaurant shooting or movie theater shooting or church shooting.
McClure became involved in Moms Demand Action after the Pulse nightclub attack in 2016, so, so many mass shootings ago.
“I took over as the local group lead in January,” McClure said. “I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, logistically, but I don’t think I knew until I started doing this work locally how bad the gun violence was in Birmingham.”
One can hear worry and weary in McClure’s voice. Her children are going through active shooting drills at school. She is on the front line of trying to pass responsible legislation concerning guns. As a mom, she has to figure out how to talk to her young children about the crisis. And not just about active shooter drills, but what her kids should do if they have a friend who is hyper-interested in guns. Or what they should do if they see something is off with one of their friends or even the parents of their friends.
What a world we live in.
McClure has helped stop the Legislature’s misguided effort to enact permitless gun carry laws in Alabama. But she knows her state, and she knows her state loves its guns. In some disturbing cases, they love their guns more than they love their children.
Moms Demand Action was founded by Shannon Watts after the Sandy Hook massacre that took the lives of 6- and 7-year-olds in Connecticut back in 2012. According to its website, Moms Demand Action has “established a chapter in every state of the country and is part of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country, with nearly 6 million supporters.”
But McClure will be the first to admit it’s challenging to work on responsible gun legislation in Alabama.
“We’re always on defense,” McClure said. “Year after year,we’re fighting bad gun bills (like permitless carry), and succeeding for the most part, instead of working on positive gun laws.”
There’s no traction in Alabama for Red Flag laws, laws that would allow the temporary removal of firearms from people who may be mentally ill or show they have threatened gun violence.
“It’s hard to get a lot of people to pay attention,” McClure said. “I think a lot of people think ‘what’s the point?’ in Alabama.”
But there is a point, and McClure and her fellow volunteers in Birmingham and across the state are doing what they can. Moms Demand Action is growing, yes, even in Alabama.
So what can Moms Demand Action do in the long run?
“What can we do? We just keep going. That’s the only thing I can say,” McClure said. “Keep going. Keep talking to legislators on the state and federal level. Show them the evidence about gun violence, the laws, how background checks are effective, how Red Flag laws are effective.
“The more we advocate for our position, the more people will listen,” McClure said.
On Aug. 25 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Levite Jewish Community Center on Montclair Road, Moms Demand Action will host a meeting and videoconference call with Shannon Watts discussing her book “Fight Like A Mother,” which focuses on the founding of the group and its fight against the gun lobby. The event is free and open to the public.
What must not happen is the complete normalizing of gun violence, which, sadly, seems to be happening.
“This garlic festival shooting, we’ll move on from it,” said McClure, “and nobody will talk about it in a week.”
That cannot happen. We must not become numb.
Thanks to hard workers like Karen McClure and Moms Demand Action, we won’t be able to forget.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]