While watching Richard Martinez, the grieving father of a young man gunned down senselessly by mentally ill Elliott Roger, I was reminded of a clip I saw of a distraught widow in Sicily some years ago. Rosaria Schifani's husband Vito, a policeman, was escorting anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone when their vehicles were blown up in a Mafia hit. Paolo Borsellino, Falcone's good friend and fellow judge, was killed fifty seven days later.
In an emotional speech at her husband's funeral, Rosaria tearfully said she could forgive the men of the Mafia for what they had done if only they had the courage to change. "Please change, there has been too much suffering, too much blood," she pleaded, "but you don't want to change."
Fast forward to Richard Martinez saying he does not want any sympathy calls from members of Congress. He wants them to do something constructive. He blames his son's death on "craven, unresponsive politicians and the NRA."
Ask yourself this: is the NRA really different from the Mafia? Their methods may not include blowing up cars, but in their stubborn and intractable fight against any kind of gun control in this country, they might as well be gunning down victims Mafia-style.
They have a stranglehold on Congress. They may not put a horse's head in anyone's bed, a tactic used in the film The Godfather Part I, but what they do is intimidate the politician who even considers voting for any kind of gun control. They will find and fund other candidates to run against him or her, make media buys to denigrate him or her as un-American because they want to "take away your Constitutional rights!" It makes no difference that the Second Amendment was written when weapons were muskets, not semi-automatic or assault weapons. Gun ownership is an American right!
This dogma reached a new low when Joe the Plumber, not someone I would normally quote, sent a letter to the grief-stricken parents of the latest tragedy saying "your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights."
In polls taken before the latest Congressional vote on gun control, an overwhelming number of Americans (91%), including many gun owners, favored at least background checks on gun sales. Congress is supposed to vote the way their constituents tell them to. Why then did Congress vote down any form of gun control? Is this a democracy or not?
The NRA is not unique in holding a sledgehammer over members of Congress, but this post is about them and their irresponsible behavior in the wake of constant mass shootings in our country. We hardly blink anymore.
"It's a mental health issue," say gun advocates. Yes, there are sick people and sometimes they fall between the cracks. Sometimes they don't. Elliott Roger was a disturbed kid, others had noticed, yet he was still able to legally purchase semi-automatic weapons. Might background checks have made a difference?
From a recent New Yorker piece by Adam Gopnik:
"Because every other modern country has suffered from the same kinds of killings, from the same kinds of sick kids, and every other country has changed its laws to stop them from happening again, and in every other country it hasn't happened again."
An Australian friend cuts to the chase: "You can't regulate the behavior of nutters, but you can make guns hard to get."
To the NRA: there has been too much suffering, too much blood. Please change. To Congress: Please listen to your constituents.
Note: You can read more about the Falcone-Borsellino murders in my post "An Offer They Refused," (8/24/09). My statistics indicate it is one of my most read postings!