By Paul Helmke
“April is the cruellest month,” said T.S. Eliot in the first line of “The Waste Land.” Those of us who work to reduce gun violence in this country take special meaning from the line. After ending March with the anniversary of the shooting of President Reagan and his Press Secretary, James Brady, we head quickly into a sobering period of more tragic anniversaries.
Last year, more bloody events were added to “National Gun Violence Prevention Month.” April 3 is the one-year anniversary of the horrific shooting of 13 in a Binghamton, New York social services agency. April 4, besides being the anniversary of the shooting death of Dr. Martin Luther King, is also the first anniversary of the murder of three police officers by an anti-government zealot (and concealed carry permit holder) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who was worried that then-new President Barack Obama was going to take away his guns.
President Abraham Lincoln was assasinated on April 14 by an anti-government zealot who called for death to tyrants. On April 16th three years ago, a mentally ill young man who was barred by federal law from buying guns, but whose disqualifying records weren’t entered into the Brady background check database, shot up Norris Hall at Virginia Tech University, killing 32. April 20th marks the 11th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado by two young men whose weapons came from a gun show where their accomplice was able to take advantage of a loophole which permits the private sale of guns without Brady criminal background checks.
In recent days, anti-government zealots have made veiled threats to take up arms against the government because of health care reform, or perceived threats to gun rights. On April 19, the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the burning of the compound at Waco, Texas in 1993, zealots are organizing both an “open carry” of guns in Virginia, a rifle shot’s distance across the Potomac River from our Nation’s Capital, as well as a march near the White House with one featured speaker who has blogged about starting a Civil War against our American government.
After nine members of a gun-toting, military-training extremist group trying to start a civil war got arrested in Michigan a few days ago, their lawyer argues that “all you’ve got is a lot of talk from people who like to dress up in fatigues and carry around guns in the woods.” We’re concerned by groups like this because others like them have already started killing people for their causes and their grievances. Just ask the widows of those Pittsburgh police officers, the parents of the young innocent lives lost at Virginia Tech, and the friends and brothers and sisters of the children of Columbine who never made it to their high school prom.
Too many in our country are fueled by hatred, resentment and guns.
I don’t like these anniversaries, and don’t want to add any more tragedies to the list. To quote Eliot again from “The Waste Land,”
Let’s pray for a month without gun violence.