Time for the gun industry and NRA to accept blame for America’s bloodshed
As America seeks answers to gun violence, the gun industry should be in our nation’s sights.
A study released last week by the Center for American Progress details how the gun lobby over decades has insulated itself from responsibility for the 40,000 people who are shot and killed in the U.S. each year. As a result, guns keep flowing onto the streets, leading to deaths and exacerbating tensions between police and communities.
Since 2013, Chicago police have recovered more than 7,000 guns used in crimes.
This has to stop.
Both manufacturers and gun dealers could play a huge role in making America safer. Gun dealers could do more to keep guns out of criminal hands. Manufacturers could insist dealers adopt safer practices. Gunmakers could design guns that thieves or children can’t fire easily.
They could think about something besides making money.
Instead, the gun lobby continues to peddle the discredited narrative that it is not its products, but criminals alone, that are the problem.
No one should be falling for that anymore. If you carelessly put firearms in the hands of criminals, you are also helping to pull the trigger.
“The gun debate has focused on the demand side of the problem and on the individuals who end up using guns,” said Chelsea Parsons, CAP vice president for gun prevention policy. People simply don’t understand the shadowy role the gun industry plays in the background.
The CAP study documents many ways the gun industry has been a reprehensible corporate citizen. Among its “achievements”:
It has blocked universal fingerprint-based background checks.
It has created gun-trafficking legal loopholes.
It has warded off oversight by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which means no government agency has the authority to regulate guns for safety.
It pushed Congress to enact the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which gave gun manufacturers and dealers broad immunity in federal and state courts.
It has made it difficult for the underfunded Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to track guns recovered at crime scenes.
It has successfully supported numerous other measures, large and small, that make America an outlier among advanced nations for gun violence.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the New York attorney general on Thursday sued the leading gunrights lobby, the National Rifle Association, claiming it diverted some $64 million in charitable contributions to support reckless spending by executives, Axios and other news outlets reported. That case seeks to shut the association down.
A related lawsuit against the NRA and NRA Foundation was filed in Washington, D.C.
The cases also shine a light on the gun manufacturers who contribute to the NRA, said Kathleen Sances, president and CEO of the Gun Violence Prevention PACIllinois. “They are the largest supporters of the NRA,” Sances said. “They don’t care that these guns end up in the secondary market.”
All these issues have become much more serious as the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide protests have led to record sales of firearms to people who are feeling fearful and anxious.
But those people mostly don’t realize they are buying products that haven’t been designed or vetted for a high level of safety. We can expect more accidents and misuse of guns. We can expect more of those guns to fall into the wrong hands.
We also are seeing an epidemic of gun store robberies and burglaries, in which firearms are carted off to wind up in the hands or criminals. The ATF can do little more than write strongly worded letters to stores that are broken into over and over again. The gun shop owners just shrug, file insurance claims and go back to their daily business.
All of this adds up to more crime. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 7, guns caused 25,162 American deaths, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
The gun industry has proven it won’t step up to protect Americans.
When will our elected leaders force it to do so?
Saturday was Bud Billiken Day. This year, “The Bud” was banished. Since 1929, the annual Bud Billiken Parade has been the apex of Chicago’s sunny, sultry summers, an iconic South Side celebration of Black children as they head back to school.
This year, the largest African American parade in the United States was canceled, for the first time in 91 years, called off by the merciless restrictions of COVID-19.
In 1929, Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the legendary Chicago Defender newspaper, launched the parade to celebrate childhood and the joys of summer. It was sponsored by the Chicago Defender Charities.
According to the parade’s website, in the 1900s, a Billiken “was a charm doll embodiment of good luck and fortune and was also regarded as the guardian of children.”
So the cheerful, smiling “Bud” became a guardian of Chicago’s Black children, a mascot who marches them back to school after their summer of fun.
My childhood memories are steeped in the parade. Mama would take me by the hand to revel in the raucous, freewheeling festivities.
It was my parade. We would watch my mother’s younger sister, the lovely Aunt Jackie, sparkle in pink taffeta as she twirled a baton in sync with the high school band.
It was our parade. Daddy’s buddy lived in an apartment that overlooked South Park, the long, wide boulevard later renamed for Martin Luther King. We visited and scrambled to the windows to watch the parade wind through Bronzeville and on to Washington Park, where the smell of picnic barbecue and soul music wafted in the air.
There were marching bands, dancers, singers, celebrities, massive floats, all swirling in a hurricane of color, song, love and light.
There were floating Jesse White Tumblers, sashaying teen dancers in colorful regalia, and celebrity appearances from the likes of Nat King Cole to Michael Jordan to Aretha Franklin to Barack Obama.
The parade is a proud statement of our blackness.
On Saturday, the parade was commemorated with a one-hour, televised special on ABC7, paying tribute via videos and interviews.
Still, we lost our “protector of children.”
Bud Billiken is not there when our girls and boys need him most. Black families on Chicago’s South and West sides have been swamped by the perils of the pandemic, their children imprisoned by its fears.
This summer, there was no time to play. No time for basketball hoops, beach outings, chasing butterflies, grabbing a popsicle at the corner store.
The magical Billiken cannot guard Black children from the dark clouds of illness and death among parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors. “The Bud” cannot shield them from disappearing jobs and lost hope.
Our babies are being gunned down in the streets. At least a half-dozen children have been shot to death in Chicago since June, according to news reports.
Bud is not there to stop the warring street gangs who are shooting each other over raggedy street corners and petty insults.
As our children head back to school, there is no school, at least not the brick-and-mortar kind. A virtual classroom will not feel like a welcoming place, especially while the “grown-ups” at the Chicago Public Schools, City Hall and the Chicago Teachers Union bicker over the reopening. While the children and parents suffer the collateral damage.
The Bud will not be there to guard them.
Yellow tape cordons off the scene where a teenager was killed in the 7300 block of South Sangamon Street in 2016.
Geeksquad members dance during the 90th Bud Billiken Parade in Bronzeville on Aug. 10, 2019.