Today’s shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. is a stark reminder to those of us dedicated to equality and social justice that there are people out there willing to disrupt progress with violent acts – even if it puts their own life in jeopardy. These extremists are a small outlier amongst the general public, but as our society takes steps forward (electing a black President, for example) there will always be people unwilling to accept change. They are nothing more than terrorists, cut from the same mold as purveyors of racism and bigotry like James Earl Ray.
You can make a lot of assumptions based on breaking news reports. Reading CNN.com will tell you all about this man’s life, his history of neo-Nazism, a friendship with the author of the “The Turner Diaries”, etc. The truth is that the details don’t matter. All I care about, and what most people should care about, is that the shooter, James Von Brunn, is a violent ex-convict who had access to a gun. He walked into a museum dedicated to tolerance and education of one of the worst episodes of genocide in history, and shot people. I, for one, could care less what his intentions were, how many people he was trying to kill, and even whether or not he was a bigot or just maniacal. I don’t care if he had some kind of manifesto, or wrote out a long letter to a local newspaper, or was trying to kill Jews, or if he wanted a world audience for his swan song. This jerk’s main goal was to wreak havoc. He should not have had access to guns. Period.
Of course, as someone whose entire maternal side of the family was gassed or murdered in the Holocaust, this tragedy hits doubly close to home. Additionally, when you work at a Jewish-faith-based social service agency, an event like this puts everyone on full alert. I am probably more at-risk of violence at work than most other social workers at faith-based agencies, simply because of the name of my employer. But all of that is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. What makes me most concerned about a hateful, violent event like this is the sensationalism that gives it relevance. When the media gives the shooter more attention than the victims and inadvertently defines the event in terms of a violent bigot, he has accomplished his goal.
This event, like all other gun violence, could have been avoided if stiffer gun control policies were put into place – particularly policies that make sure that people who serve time in prison for offenses involving guns never get their hands on them. It is events like this that prove the Second Amendment is outdated, and something needs to be done to change it. We hear about how the border violence is fueled by drugs from Mexico, and weapons from America. Here’s an easy solution: legalize drugs and ban guns. I should be appointed border czar.
Do me a favor. If you ever hear of something positive happening that involves a gun, I’d like to know about it. I’m willing to bet money that won’t ever happen.