Where will you be Friday afternoon?

By Rich Heiland. Columnist, The Times

This Friday, June 2, I will be wearing orange and standing with others in our community who have had enough of the never-ending gun violence that is destroying our country. Where will you be standing?

This Friday, June 2people dressed in orange will gather at the Historic Chester Court House in my town, West Chester, to share an hour unified in the belief that no country awash with guns and the hatred, death and sorrow that comes from their barrels can truly be great.

There will signs and speeches and I will be among the crowd, listening mostly, mingling with friends. Most of those people will be friends I have made through efforts like this, things we do because we hope we can make a difference, and if we cannot, then at least feel some better about ourselves for having tried.

Today I went through the headlines from recent days, thinking I would count the deaths and woundings from guns. I stopped. There was no point. It was a stream of data without end, without variation. I am not talking about mass shootings here, the ones that captured headlines and cause flags to be lowered to half-staff where, it seems, they spend more time than at full-staff.

I am talking about the young man gunned down on a SEPTA train in Philadelphia. If you live in or near Philly, you come to realize the evening news is always going to contain more deaths from a gun. Black, white, young, old. Dead, wounded, dying.  Frustrated neighbors crying in the streets. These are the deaths beyond the headlines, the ones that have numbed us but they add up to so many more than the mass shootings.

I have written over the years about guns more than anything else, I think, and I don’t know that it has mattered much, except for making me feel better.

I think my mistake was in thinking that the hard-core gun owners in this country could somehow be reached. I realize now they cannot. I no longer write for the sorry losers that come out of the gutters every time someone mentions gun control. These are the people – usually men – who claim patriotism, who claim they are the last line of defense between their homes and whatever horde – black, brown, yellow, gay, Muslim – is coming after them.

These are the ones who, when they sit at the bar and watched the news of another shooting, will say “If I’da been there….” Except, you know they were there. At many of our worst shootings, they were there but they did nothing. When the shots rang out and the blood splattered, they ducked, covered or ran like everyone else.

These are the small-brained people who will tell you that if guns are taken away, we will all become political prisoners. Or, if guns are taken away bad people still will have them and use them against us. Or, if guns are taken away, mass murderers will use knives. Or, cars kill people but we don’t ban cars. Seriously. I’ve had all these responses when I have posted my blog on various Facebook sites. They are the zombie-like utterings of people whose brains have been taken over by….well, read on….

BOTTOM LINE – I don’t write for them anymore. I write for people who already agree with me but who maybe are not taking the next steps to make a difference.

Here are some questions for you:

  • Have you written to your elected officials, from Main Street to Washington D.C. and all points between, be they Republican, Democrat or Independent, telling them enough is enough on guns?
  • Have you made gun control laws a key consideration when it comes to who you support and vote for offices at all levels?
  • Have you written letters to the editor concerning gun deaths and crime in your area?
  • Have you gone to public gatherings – be they protests, vigils – and joined with others to create a physical presence?

If we are going to overcome this scourge, we need to realize what is driving it and take actions for change.

The “bubbas” and other bar room braggarts who think they need a Glock in their belt to go to the grocery are not the problem. They are pawns, but pawns who vote. They are not the ones who need to be won over, though if some of them can be, all the better.

While those who die from the bullets bleed red, we should see their blood as green because it is the green of money that is killing them. Now we are back to what I said early about the zombies having their brains taken over.

The gun industry, and its public relations arm The National Rifle Association, pour millions into electing politicians absent of hearts and souls who will support them, and they almost are all Republicans today.

They use the Second Amendment, a misinterpreted and antiquated sop to slavery that should be repealed, as a sledgehammer to keep the profits flowing. They use every tool they have to brainwash the bubbas and bubbettes into thinking they are moments from death from some form of the “other” if they don’t buy more and more guns. Have one by every door and window. Have them in the car or truck. More and more. Never be more than arm’s length from them. This is the dark world, where it’s always midnight and evil is at the door, that the gun industry has created and drawn so many into.

Where is this going? By all means, protest. Write letters. But more than anything else, vote. Make sure your friends and neighbors have registered and show up on election day.

Don’t go away. Don’t be afraid. Show up. Let what I now call “The Gun Cowards of America” know there is a real world of caring people out there who are fed up with their paranoid world of violence. They are inflicting it on all of us, creating fear where none need exist. To the extent a country can be great, they are standing between us and greatness.

So, come into the light and stay there, stand there, vote there. It’s so far beyond time for ending this horror show that there is not much left to say. But there sure as hell is a lot left to do. Believe you me, one person, matters. Believe one small act matters.

We can get guns off the streets, even though it may take a decade. We can pass reasonable gun laws. We can even get the Second Amendment repealed. But we have to show up.

It’s time. Enough. See you on June 2?

I can assure you, West Chester is not the only place where people will gather. Be there.

Rich Heiland is a retired reporter, editor and publisher. He has been a part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting team, National Columnist of the Year and a journalism instructor. He lives in West Chester.

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