On Saturday, the world will stop once again -- as it should -- to remember arguably the greatest American of the last 100 years, Dr. Martin Luther King. April 4 will mark 47 years since an American sniper gunned down the civil rights leader on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The year that both King and Sen. Robert Kennedy were assassinated, 1968, was not so coincidentally one of the few moments that the nation was able to enact gun regulations. It was a time when the nation, collectively, was desperate to tackle a violent streak that seemed to be threatening the great American experiment.
It's become more than a bit of a cliche to say that an esteemed figure, like Martin Luther King, would be "spinning in his grave" over something that's happening now. But it's indeed hard to imagine what King -- who remained remarkably, stoically committed to the principle of non-violence, despite a lifetime of provocation -- would have thought of the words coming from one of his heirs at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or SCLC, the group that he founded and led during the 1960s.
And there are still people in this community who believe that having more guns in general, both legal and illegal, just increases the likelihood of gun violence. Evelyn Marks is one of those people.
"Christina was my only child, I put everything I had into her," she says.
Her daughter, Christina Lazzana-Webster, was murdered by someone with a concealed-carry permit: her own husband. He killed her in their home. Marks assumes they'd been having an argument. She says the rise of legal guns doesn't make Detroit feel any safer to her. In fact, it's just the opposite.
That's exactly right. This new trend is a sad commentary on the current state of the violence debate in America -- and it's also infuriating. Make no mistake, a dangerous extremiist group called the NRA -- and the politicians who beg for its offerings on bended knee -- bears a disproportionate share of the blame. The gun lobby's growing success in killing even the mildest moves towards gun sanity in America, even after the senseless slaughter of babies in Newtown in 2012, has finally convinced rational people that we can never reduce the firepower on our streets -- that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
The circle on this is beyond ironic. History buffs remember that blacks arming themselves -- citing police brutality -- was a key tenet of the rise of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. A black open-carry event at the California State Capitol led the NRA and the state's then-new governor -- Ronald Reagan, perhaps you've heard of him? -- to endorse gun control measures aimed at the black power movement. Today's new developments may test how much has really changed in American society since 1967.
But in the meantime, what a blow to the memory of a man of peace like Martin Luther King as we recall this weekend what he fought for -- and how his efforts were cut short by a man with a high-powered rifle. The 2nd Amendment is a fact of life in America, and gun ownership should be legal...and safe, and also rare, and properly regulated. Giving up and giving in to the gun culture is never the answer -- in any neighborhood.