A parade gives way to another round of violence

Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

Just days after the University of Michigan football team won the national title on January 8, some lifelong friends and I decided to bask in the glory a bit more by attending the championship parade down State Street in Ann Arbor, braving below-zero wind chills as we stood in snow banks to salute our conquering heroes.

While waiting for the festivities to begin, one of my U-M friends surveyed the tens of thousands lining the parade route and wondered aloud, “I sure hope no one does something sinister today.”

Such as setting off homemade bombs as was done by two terrorists along the Boston Marathon route in 2013, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others.

Or by spraying bullets from a high-powered rifle into a throng of parade-goers, as happened February 14 in downtown Kansas City when thousands of fans gathered to celebrate a second straight Super Bowl championship by their beloved Chiefs.

In the Kansas City tragedy, one person was killed and at least 22 others were wounded, some with life-threatening injuries. In the grim aftermath, one reporter – Justin Baragona of The Daily Beast – offered the following sentiment: “Two American traditions like no other – football and mass shootings.”

His words serve as a numbing indictment of our unwillingness to address the long-standing problem of gun control, which like so many other nettlesome issues have taken a backseat to another “great” American tradition – political polarization.

According to ABC News, gun violence has cost the lives of nearly 5,000 people so far in 2024. The killings are amplifying calls for stricter gun control legislation to help prevent further bloodshed. Not surprisingly, Second Amendment supporters see the issue in an altogether different light, claiming that schools, stores, churches, and other gathering places need a well-armed security force to thwart future attacks, and that “you cannot legislate evil.”

In other words, the string of mass shootings only seems to widen the political gap between gun supporters and those advocating for change in our gun laws.

Which leaves us to wonder how do we best bridge that divide when dealing with the critical issues of the day? It’s a rhetorical question that has few easy answers – but remains one that instead of prompting a collective desire for decisive action, seems to promote nothing more than pain and paralysis.

When historians survey the first 24 years of the new Millennium, they likely won’t be very kind to the key political figures, particularly those who revel in sound bites and needless posturing.

Take the hot-button issue of gun control, for example. Just the mere mention of it automatically sends proponents and opponents into their separate corners where any attempt at compromise proves futile.

Instead, we are content to sit back in a political straightjacket awaiting word of the next mass shooting, powerless to take any meaningful steps to prevent the horror perpetrated by a gunman.

The senseless killings stir unpleasant memories of when such sickness reared its head in April 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

There, in the suburb of Denver, was the scene of a shooting spree carried out by two teens who originally planned to bomb the school facility.

When two would-be bombs failed to detonate, the teens began gunning down students outside the school before continuing their rampage inside, eventually killing 12 students, a teacher, and then themselves.

At the time, it was the worst school shooting in the nation’s history, a dubious distinction that years later would be surpassed by mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Locally, the plague of mass shootings became even more painful in 2021 when four students were killed at Oxford High School in a case that continues to reverberate today.

The tragedies, of course, reignited the national debate on gun control and school safety. It also has prompted many political leaders to trot out the shop-worn phrase of “my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families” as we consider the ramifications of yet another deadly example of gun violence.

One thing remains certain, however: nothing will change in terms of limiting the easy availability of weaponry. Those who believe in the “right to bear arms” will be emboldened even more in the wake of the latest shooting, somehow believing that the only way to counter such killings is to be armed to an even greater degree.

Now, as we grow almost indifferent to news of another senseless slaughter, it’s time for Congress to reevaluate its all-too-cozy relationship with the National Rifle Association, whose idea of gun control is “using two hands” on whatever the weapon. Such political sway by the gun lobby only serves to place us all in the crosshairs of the next hell-bent killer.

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