Last week, freshman Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) ended a marathon fifteen hour filibuster demanding that Congress finally do something — anything — about the gun control issue. Just days prior, a gunman committed one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern American history when he stormed into the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida with a semiautomatic assault rifle, shooting and killing 49 victims and wounding 53 more before being killed by police. Most of the Orlando shooter’s victims that night — the twelfth of LGBT Pride Month — were Black and Brown LGBT clubgoers out for a night of drinks and dancing at Pulse’s weekly Latin night.
This was the 176th mass shooting in 2016 alone. To date, nearly 1,000 Americans have been wounded or killed in mass shootings, and the year is not yet half over. There are, quite simply, no words left to utter about this tragic, angering, inexcusable status quo except these: we need better gun control.
When Omar Mateen, Orlando shooter, attacked Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning, he did so with a legally purchased Sig Sauer MCX and Glock17 handgun. The rifle was first developed at the request of US military to accept a range of ammunition types, and its specialty is its built-in silencing technology. On June 12, Mateen used his MCX to fire a still unknown number of bullets at a rate of 24 rounds in 9 seconds.
As this gun enthusiast blog raves, “it really does look like SIG Sauer took the concept of the Honey Badger and ran with it all the way to the finish line. And then decided to make it available for sale to the civilian market and not just for military contracts.”
The MCX is, without a doubt, a weapon of war.
Common sense dictates that this gun — whose only purpose is to maximize the task of ending human lives as quickly and efficiently as possibly — does not belong on the civilian market.
When I first moved to the United States from Canada, I was shocked by the casual normalcy with which Americans treated their guns. Canada is no stranger to guns — we rank 12th in the world in gun ownership with about 1 gun for every 3 Canadians — but we lack a culture of firearm fetishism. Few Canadians feel an urge to purchase a gun for non-hunting purposes, and Canadian gun owners just don’t feel the need to walk around strapped. Efforts to circumvent our gun control laws were an anathema; I remember as a child reading a two-page spread in the Toronto Star dedicated to an investigative story about a homicide committed using an unregistered firearm: it had been purchased across the border in America.
The first time I saw a gun, I had just moved to the United States. I was shopping for athletic clothes at a local sporting goods store when I wandered over to the outdoors section. There, within a display counter, were a collection of handguns. I stared in horror at them: lying just inches from my face behind a wall of plexiglass — a weapon that existed only for the purpose of killing another human being with a quick pull of a trigger. This was a machine invented only for ending life, easily purchased for a few hundred dollars.
I couldn’t help wondering, “is human life worth so little to Americans, that the means for taking it can be found on sale next to the sleeping bags and ice coolers?”
I was sixteen at the time. Nearly two decades of living in America has done little to blunt this initial reaction I had to American gun culture. I’ve been in the United States — where most people love their guns — all of my adult life. I’ve lived in Arizona — where most people really love their guns — for several years, during which time I met many people with Concel & Carry Permits and who never went anywhere without a gun in their purse or holstered at their hip. I’ve fired a .45 (which, admittedly, was pretty fun).
But, I’ve never stopped wondering why Americans place so little value in human life that we are unwilling to do anything about this country’s senseless hyperproliferation of guns.
It only took the US Senate 13 months.
Dr. Vivek Murthy was nominated by the Obama Administration in November 2013 to replace acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, who held the position from July 2013 in the wake of former Surgeon General Regina Benjamin’s resignation. Murthy, who holds both an MD and an MBA, was born in Huddersfield, England to parents hailing from Karnataka, India; the family moved to Miami, Florida when Murthy was three years old. Murthy earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and his medical degree from Yale School of Medicine in 2003, and was one of the founding members of Doctors for America — a group of physicians supporting comprehensive healthcare reform. In addition to this group, Murthy has founded several other non-profits and organizations aimed at improving healthcare in this country.
Murthy is everything one might look for in a surgeon general: a physician committed not just to his medical practice but also to political advocacy, all focused towards improving healthcare access. So why is it took over a year for the Senate to approve this highly-qualified nominee?
Of course: Republicans.
Yesterday marked another grim incident in this nation’s ongoing litany of gun violence. A man, identified as 26-year-old former LA Fitness janitor Aaron Ybarra walked into Seattle Pacific University’s Otto Miller Hall and opened fire with a shotgun at point-blank range, killing one person and wounding three others.
When I first heard about the incident yesterday, I scoured the web, hoping that the victims or the perpetrator were not Asian American. Something about Elliot Rodger — who is biracially Asian American — and his deadly shooting spree in Isla Vista had me hyper-sensitive. I just couldn’t help thinking: “no, please, our community can’t take any more tragedy”.
I wish I had been right.
Yesterday’s single fatality at SPU — who was pronounced dead at Harborview Medical Center — has now been identified as 19-year-old Paul Lee, a Korean American freshman from Portland who reportedly enjoyed dancing and “eating delicious food”. Friends and family remember Lee as a “lively” person who made the classroom fun.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the Lee family. The loss of yet another young man — barely older than a child — by gun violence, wounds deeply. That he is now the fourth Asian American man to die in relation to a mass shooting on a college campus in the span of two weeks is unfathomable and senseless.
Larry Ward, chairman of Gun Appreciation Day, a made-up holiday to celebrate guns and gun owners, went on CNN on Friday to defend the day’s events. He suggested that Gun Appreciation Day, which this year falls on January 19th and just two days before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, is actually in the spirit of Martin Luther King’s non-violent civil rights legacy. In fact, says Ward, slavery “might not have been a chapter in our history” had slaves been armed.
Let’s highlight the quote of awesomeness:
He’s not wrong, actually. Slavery might not have gone so well if slavers had kidnapped Africans and stolen them from their homes and families, shipped them across the ocean in chains and deplorable conditions, and then promptly handed them a rifle the minute they were taken off the boats. Further, firearms were a means whereby slaves revolted against slavery. Slaves who gained access to arms often participated in frequent (but rarely taught) uprisings throughout the South. But, unfortunately, these uprisings were isolated incidents that rarely resulted in anything more than painful retribution against unfreed slaves and/or kin, indicating that access to firearms and resulting violence was not alone sufficient to end the -institution- of slavery.
Let’s also examine for instance the notion that Martin Luther King, Jr. in particular would support arming slaves to revolt or protest against slavery. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy was non-violent protest — the notion of returning violence with non-violence as a form of civil protest.
King once said of the non-violence movement: “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
In the end, however, the whole suggestion is absurd because we are talking about a time when slaves were bought and sold as property; when slaves were considered sub-human and incapable of complex thought by nature; when it was illegal to teach a slave to read. The hypothetical wherein slaves might have been granted the right to bear arms since this country’s founding — and in so doing “stop slavery” — is so far removed from the historical context of slavery and how it came about that it becomes patently absurdist.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!