Honor victims with action
5/5/2018, 11:36 a.m.
Marc H. Morial
“From 1986 to 1996, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sponsored high-quality, peer-reviewed research into the underlying causes of gun violence. People who kept guns in their homes did not — despite their hopes — gain protection … Instead, residents in homes with a gun faced a 2.7-fold greater risk of homicide and a 4.8-fold greater risk of suicide. The National Rifle Association moved to suppress the dissemination of these results and to block funding of future government research into the causes of firearm injuries. … As a consequence, U.S. scientists cannot answer the most basic question: What works to prevent firearm injuries?” — Mark Rosenberg, former director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC and former U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey, an Arkansas Republican who sponsored (to his later regret) the amendment that blocks the CDC from funding gun injury prevention research.
The April 22 tragedy at a Nashville area Waffle House brings the nation’s gun death toll to 4,422 in 2018 and the number of mass shooting victims to 69.
The relentless pace of gun violence in America threatens to dull our outrage and focus on the perpetrators threatens to bury the memory of the victims and the heroism of those who showed grace under pressure.
The Nashville shooter snuffed out the lives of four young people: Taurean Sanderlin, 29; Joe Perez, 20; DeEbony Groves, 21; and Akilah DaSilva, 23.
Known as “T” by his friends, Mr. Sanderlin had worked at the Waffle House as a cook for about five years. Mr. Perez worked as a subcontractor for a moving company. Ms. Groves, a former standout high school basketball player, made Dean’s List at Belmont University. Mr. DaSilva, who went by the nickname Natrix, studied musical engineering at Middle Tennessee State University.
From this tragedy has emerged a hero. Not only did James Shaw Jr. tackle the gunman and wrest away his AR-15 assault rifle — severely burning his hands in the process — but he also set up a memorial fund for the victims, raising nearly $100,000. In interviews, Mr. Shaw said he wants his 4-year-old daughter to grow up in a less violent world.
“I hope we can bring violence in all facets — not just gun violence, but all facets of violence — to an end,” he said.
Admirers have created a college fund for Mr. Shaw’s daughter.
Law enforcement has not identified a motive for the shootings, but the gunman’s history of mental health issues and delusions is well documented. It’s beyond question the man shouldn’t have had access to firearms. His guns had, in fact, been confiscated and his license to carry them revoked in Illinois. The guns were released to the shooter’s father, who returned them to the shooter when he moved to Tennessee.
Federal law allows for weapons to be seized when someone is convicted of a felony or involuntarily committed for mental health treatment. But Illinois is one of only a few states where firearms can be seized if someone’s behavior constitutes a “clear and present danger” but does not necessarily rise to a felony conviction or involuntary commitment.
It’s unclear whether the shooter’s father violated federal law by returning the guns, but there is no law in Tennessee that would have barred him from possessing them.
As if the nation needed another reminder, we must reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons and impose a limit on magazine capacity. It is only because the Waffle House shooter paused to reload that Mr. Shaw had the opportunity to disarm him and save countless lives.
The most important way we can honor the memory of Taurean Sanderlin, Joe Perez, DeEbony Groves and Akilah DaSilva, and fulfill the vision of James Shaw Jr., is to vote for leaders who will heed the demands of the majority of Americans and enact sensible gun reforms.
The writer is president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League.