Aaron Salter Jr., 55, was on duty at the security job that supplemented his retirement income. Ruth Whitfield, 86, was buying groceries. Celestine Chaney, 65, stopped in for strawberries for the shortcake she and her sister were eager to enjoy.
But their plans went awry Saturday afternoon. Salter’s work shift ended sooner than he expected. Whitfield didn’t make it through her grocery list. And thoughts of strawberry shortcake evaporated in a flash for Chaney.
The three were slaughtered along with seven other people at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. Just like the 20 students, all 6 and 7 years old, and six employees who were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. Just like the 60 people who were gunned down at a music festival in Las Vegas in 2017.
If only our government officials were as interested in these individuals as were the political leaders who have obsessed over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas and her decision to compete for the Quakers or NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his decision to kneel during the national anthem.
Of course, it is easier for politicians to talk about trans-sexual athletes and to look for ways to score cheap political points. It takes time, and it opens a politician up to potential criticism, to do the difficult work of finding ways to reduce gun violence.
It is more difficult to muster the political courage to explore possible changes in laws that now allow anyone to assemble enough weaponry, body armor and high-capacity ammo magazines to outfit an army platoon.
While politicians solemnly offer their thoughts and prayers, these officials prefer to talk about the sanctity of the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms” than explain how unfettered access to weapons of war squares with the “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” promise our founding fathers laid out in the Declaration of Independence.
Too few of our leaders seem to be giving much thought to how we are supposed to guard against tragedies like the one on Saturday and the relentless carnage guns are causing across our nation.
With public outrage boiling and the optics of the Buffalo tragedy so shocking, even some supporters of guns and people’s right to bear arms were keeping their “thoughts and prayers” to themselves over the weekend — because, I am sure, they realize their statements ring hollow to many of us.
The paralysis associated with our nation’s response to gun violence is downright depressing. These senseless deaths are ruining families, leaving far too many people living in fear, and enraging so many.
People are enraged, because each time one of these tragedies occurs, too many of our leaders just appear to be marking time until journalists and the public turn their attention to another story.
People are angry, because too many leaders just shrug when they are asked why going to a grocery store has to be a life-and-death choice. These leaders are content to talk about the importance of better mental health services until the news crews get enough quotes and move on, and then our leaders return to their governing paralysis.
People are incensed because “pro-life” seems to have taken a backseat to pro-gun. The National Rifle Association and Second Amendment absolutists wrap themselves in the words “right of the people to keep and bear arms” and skip over the other part about “a well regulated militia.”
The “solution,” in their view, is more guns.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has recently been in the news with his reminder about the importance of what is not said in the Constitution. Although he was writing about abortion, I am sure he would want to remind us, too, that there is no language in the Second Amendment that mentions unfettered access to high-capacity ammo magazines or weapons that can fire as rapidly as a shooter can pull the trigger.
Yes, there is no magic solution that will end all mass killings. It is foolish to expect 100 percent perfection from every step that is proposed.
And it is even more foolish to do nothing, knowing full well that within a week or two the tragedy of another mass killing will visit another community after another deranged person decides to settle some perceived score by gunning down innocent people who are shopping for strawberries, sitting in a classroom, or enjoying a concert.
How much longer must we wait before our “leaders” actually lead on this problem?
Randy Evans is director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com.