The phrase “Call It by Its Name” has been used to address many issues including white supremacy and bullying. Whenever someone is concerned that an issue is not being addressed, there is a call to recognize the elephant in the room.
It is questionable if addressing a given issue in plain language has an effect. It is often a cry of desperation. An issue that has graced this column over the years has been gun violence. It is doubtful that any one of the articles convinced a reader to give up his or her gun or convinced the person not to buy a gun. Those articles probably have made some folks angry and believe they are an assault on the Second Amendment.
In a divided America, it may be impossible to Call It by Its Name. It’s a challenge to get Americans to share common beliefs. In making decisions, they look at their own lives and listen to those who amplify their beliefs. In a democracy, it may be impossible to sustain enough unity to perpetuate community over an extended period of time. What we experienced in the past had the semblance of unity but that was before many of our voices were heard. When Americans speak openly, some feel their voices are drowned out. “Making America Great Again” taps this sentiment. Replacement theory or the fear that native-born white Americans will be permanently replaced by people of color, Jews, and immigrants commonly is expressed.
While this concern was resurrected when the U.S. Census Bureau projected people of color becoming a majority of the American working class in 2032, and by 2043, the overall “majority-minority”. Yet, this concern or fear is not new but part of the rhetoric in the 1920s when Catholics, Southern European and Russian immigrants represented a growing portion of the population.
We face many challenges in our country. An overriding and omnipresent one is our refusal to admit that widespread ownership of guns undermines our society. The recent mass shooting in Buffalo, New York is but the tip of the iceberg. We have experienced 198 mass shootings since the beginning of this year, yet this astounding statistic has not generated a nation-wide response. We have come to accept gun deaths as the price for living in the United States.
In Canada, we must go back to 2018, to find a mass shooting when four people were killed including two police officers in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Why do we kill so many of our fellow citizens? Are we so different from other people? Are we more prone to violence? Is there an intrinsic flaw in the American character? If the answer to these questions is no, there must be other reasons. There are an estimated 400 million guns in the United States if you include police, military, and civilians. Over 393 million (over 98%) of those guns are in private hands.
There are 120 firearms per every 100 citizens with 78 percent of American gun owners having a single firearm and 22 percent owning five or more. Only three-in-ten American adults say they currently own a gun but 11 percent say while they do not personally own a gun, they live with someone who does. Among those who do not currently own a gun, about half say they could see themselves owning one in the future. Americans have an almost fetishistic connection to guns. If you listen to gun advocates, personal freedom is key and gun ownership essential. Owning and now carrying a gun on one’s person is a badge of equality (manhood) and thought to be a deterrent to anyone who might be a challenge. While it was successful in the past, the idea of ridding America of assault weapons seems like a fairy tale. We do not need guns and guns do great harm to ourselves and others, but we dare not say, “People with Guns kill People” and we should greatly restrict their access and ownership. There is a better answer: faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.