Editorial: Do we have the will to alter nation’s deadly gun culture
Last week was tough on America. In the footsteps of the country’s celebratory summer holiday, the nation was faced — once again — with unthinkable gun violence.
With live video on Facebook portraying police in Baton Rouge, La., pumping bullets into Alton Sterling on Tuesday, and another police officer shooting Philando Castile four times at point-blank range in Falcon Heights, Minn., as his girlfriend caught the tragic scene on her phone as her 4-year-old daughter watched Castile slump toward her mother in a pool of blood. Then came Thursday’s night attack on law enforcement, as an ex-U.S. Army sergeant shot and killed (with an assault-weapon) five Dallas policemen, while wounding six others and two civilians at a peaceful protest.
The Dallas shooting wasn’t an act of terrorism, as some police allegedly supposed, but rather of revenge against a police culture that in some U.S. cities and states unfairly targets the black community. But responding to violence with violence is no answer; we all know that, but we don’t know what to do.
As New York Times columnist Frank Brundi wrote in the aftermath: “We don’t have any ready answers for how to end this cycle of bloodshed, this grip of terror, these heart-rending images from Louisiana and Minnesota and Texas of a country in desperate trouble, with so much pain to soothe, rage to exorcise and injustice to confront. But we have choices about how we absorb what’s happened and where we do and don’t point fingers… There’s only one cause here: stopping the needless loss of life. Restoring safety. Relieving fear. Taking the appropriate steps — in criminal justice, in police training, in schools, in public discourse — so that each of us goes about our days in as much peace as possible. And the constituency for that is all of America.
“Among the important choices we’re making is whom to listen to,” Bruni continued. “There are voices out there — too many of them — that seek to inflame. There are others that don’t. Here are two, from Dallas, both black men, both interviewed by CNN on Friday morning about how we chart a path out of this.
“‘No conflict has ever been solved with violence,’” said Erik Wilson, deputy mayor pro tem of Dallas. “‘It’s always been solved with conversation. And that is something that we need to focus on.’”
Referring to nationwide instances of excessive police force, Bruni quoted Dallas Deputy Chief of Police Malik Aziz that while police should be held accountable, it was equally important that the dialogue between police and their communities did not “degenerate in the manner that so much of our dialogue does, that didn’t herd people into warring factions, that didn’t pump them full of hate.
“‘We have devolved into some separatism and we’ve taken our corners,” Aziz continued. “Days like yesterday or the day before — they shouldn’t happen. But when they do, let’s be human beings. Let’s be honorable men and women and sit down at a table and say, ‘How can we not let this happen again?’ And be sincere in our hearts. We’re failing at that on all sides.’”
All Americans need to ask that question of themselves: ‘How can we not let this happen again?’ Aziz was referring to the Dallas incident, but also of the two murders earlier this week at the hands of police officers. And how can we change the culture of gun violence that leads to the mass shootings that have become so commonplace in America? What can we do? And do we have the will to do it?
Mark A. Nelson of Bristol
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