ABOVE: Garnell Whitfield Jr. the son of 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield who was killed during a mass shooting at Tops market speaks during a press conference with attorney Benjamin Crump and members of his extended family by his side on May 16, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. A gunman opened fire at the store on Saturday killing ten people and wounding another three. The attack was believed to be motivated by racial hatred. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
“You expect us to continue to just forgive and forget over and over again. And what are you doing?”
– Garnell Whitfield Jr., whose 86-year-old mother, Ruth Whitfield, was among the 10 African Americans fatally shot and killed in Buffalo, NY, speaking at Senate Judiciary panel on June 7th.
Every year, there is a constant back-and-forth argument in this country about gun violence and gun reform, especially after a mass shooting takes place.
The recent and senseless mass shootings that took place in Buffalo, NY, followed by the tragic murders of school children and their teachers in Uvalde, TX, have left the nation gripped with various unbridled emotions. The primary call for something to be done has intensified.
However, politics remain at the forefront of the issue. In this instance, the more things stay the same, the more we don’t see the changes needed to be made to address actions that move us further and further away from the change we desperately need to address it.
It is frustrating to many that their elected leaders continue to ignore the persistent calls for substantive legislation that will effectively address gun violence and mass shootings.
Elected officials in Washington, DC are not listening to the voices of their fellow Americans, and partisan politics continue to be a key driver on the issue.
Let’s look at what the American people are currently saying, to prove that point.
Point of note…there is still a strong difference of opinion amongst Democrats and Republicans on what to do relative to the right to bear arms, gun access, and the type of guns being made accessible; but there is a bipartisan view amongst Americans that want to do something to help curtail incidents like these from occurring again.
According to a recent CBS News Poll, which was conducted from June 1 to June 3, most Americans—regardless of party affiliation—are in favor of stricter gun laws and believe that background checks and a federal “red flag” law could help prevent mass shootings.
The CBS News Poll showed that 81% of the respondents are in favor of background checks on ALL buyers, 72% are in favor of the federal “red flag” law, and 62% are in favor of a nationwide ban on the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle.
Although these numbers appear to be significantly high, we need to break these numbers down a little further based on political affiliation to get the deeper story.
There appears to be closer alignment between Democrats (88%) and Republicans (74%) relative to increased background checks, but not so much on the other two issues.
According to the CBS News Poll, 84% of Democrats support the federal “red flag” law, while 52% of Republicans support it. Strikingly, although 62% of overall Americans that were polled favor a nationwide ban on the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, 84% of Democrats support it compared to only 31% of Republicans.
Many people are not fully aware what the federal “red flag” law is, but 19 states and Washington, DC currently have “red flag” laws on the books in some shape, form, or fashion.
Texas is NOT one of those states.
The way “red flag” laws work is that in most states, family members or members of law enforcement can petition the court to temporarily remove the firearm(s) from an individual who is deemed a troubled or unstable person. The court then rules on whether that individual is at serious risk of harming themselves or others with a firearm, and then decides to either grant or deny the request of the petitioner(s) to remove the firearm(s) from that individual and ban them from purchasing any new firearms. There are a few other states who allow significant others, school administrators and employees, health professionals, including mental health experts, extended family members, and other individuals. The length of time that the firearm(s) are taken away or that the individual is unable to purchase a firearm can vary, but it could typically last up to a year, and the person can appeal the court’s decision.
Most Americans also believe that mass shootings could be prevented if America really tried, but the belief in what could prevent them varies whether you are a Republican or a Democrat.
The top four things that Democrats believe should be done to prevent mass shootings are:
- More Background Checks (74%)
- Banning Semi-Automatic Weapons (72%)
- More “Red Flag” Laws (70%)
- Better Mental Health Screening/Treatment (61%)
The top four things that Republicans believe should be done to prevent mass shootings are:
- Better Mental Health Screening/Treatment (60%)
- More Police and Armed Guards in Public Places (59%)
- More Religion and Faith in People’s Lives (53%)
- Allowing More Law-Abiding Citizens to Carry Guns (51%)
Sadly, one of the most startling results that came from the CBS News Poll was the number of people (28%) who believe that mass shootings are “unfortunately something we have to accept as part of a free society.”
This is not something that the families of victims are willing to accept as the norm.
This past Tuesday, June 7th, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the white supremacist attack that took place on May 14th at the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, NY.
One of the individuals who spoke was Garnell Whitfield Jr., whose 86-year-old mother, Ruth Whitfield, was among the 10 African Americans who were fatally shot and killed in the attack.
Whitfield grilled the senators and challenged them to deal with the white supremacy and domestic terrorism that has dominated this country for years.
“Is there nothing that you personally are willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it inspires?” Whitfield asked the senators on the panel. “Because if there is nothing, then, respectfully, senators, you should yield your positions of authority and influence to others that are willing to lead on this issue. The urgency of the moment demands no less.”
Whitfield pointed out that federal law enforcement has done research and found that white supremacy was the greatest domestic threat and rebuked them because “nothing has been done to mitigate it or eradicate it.”
“White supremacy, it’s a problem, and this young man, though he pulled the trigger, others loaded the gun. Others fed him. Others radicalized him,” Whitfield said, referencing 18-year-old Payton Gendron, who is a self-described white supremacist.
Investigators uncovered that Gendron detailed his plan of attack, visited the Tops Friendly Market several times before the attack, wrote about his racist beliefs and intentions, and posted them online before he drove three hours from his house to go on his racist killing spree, targeting nothing but Black people.
In the video that he recorded from the camera he attached to the semi-automatic weapon he used to carry out his racist carnage, Gendron can be seen pointing his gun at a white man and then apologizing to him once he realized that he was white like him.
“You expect us to continue to just forgive and forget over and over again. And what are you doing?” Whitfield asked the Senate panel. “You’re elected to protect us, to protect our way of life. I ask every one of you to imagine the faces of your mothers as you look at mine and ask yourself, is there nothing that we can do?”
Whitfield delivered one of the most powerful statements to the Senate Judiciary panel as he capsulized the feelings of all African Americans in this country who have to suffer the stinging blow of racist actions, and nothing being done about it.
“But we’re more than hurt. We’re angry. We’re mad as hell because this should’ve never happened,” Whitfield exclaimed. “We’re good citizens, good people. We believe in God, we trust in God. But this wasn’t an act of God, this was an act of a person, and he did not act alone. He was radicalized by white supremacists whose anger and hatred were metastasized like a cancer by people with big microphones in high places, screaming that Black people were going to take away their jobs and opportunities.”
After the Senate Judiciary panel hearing, U.S. Congressman Al Green (TX-09) released the following statement:
“We cannot continue to ignore the ongoing gun violence crisis in the United States. It is ravaging our country causing unimaginable grief to countless families. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020 Texas had the most firearm-related deaths of all 50 states at 4,146 deaths. It needs to stop now. This is why today I am going back to Washington, DC to fight to protect American children and families from deadly mass shootings. It is not enough for elected officials to take a stand. Members of federal and state legislatures need influential people of goodwill across the country to take a public stand as well. Influentials with the power to shape public opinion, such as chambers of commerce, need to make clear where they stand to politicians to help shape political opinion. It is our collective responsibility to embrace solutions which help to save lives. This is about more than politics; it is about the life and death of our children. Influentials of goodwill need to take a public stand against do-nothing politics.”
Among the legislative priorities Congressman Green states he will be supporting are:
- Requiring a waiting period prior to the purchase of a weapon with some exceptions
- The banning of bump stocks
- The repeal of special immunity from liability laws enjoyed by the gun industry
- Requiring licensing before the purchase of a firearm with training to include anger management and dispute resolution, as well as safe storage methods
- The funding of a national summer youth job program with a dispute resolution and anger management component
- Fully funding gun violence prevention research through the CDC
- Closing the “gun show loophole” which allows a person to purchase a weapon from an unlicensed seller at a gun show without a background check.
The issue of gun violence and mass shootings is nothing new, but the Forward Times is wanting articles like this to be a thing of the past. Therefore, the Forward Times will continue to remain on the frontline to ensure that something is done at the federal and state levels, regardless of what side of the political pendulum its readers find themselves on. Enough is Enough!