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Do Something

The ominous sky opened up just moments before the Lycoming County Veterans Council was set to begin its annual Memorial Day Service at Williamsport’s West Fourth Street Veterans Memorial Park. Undaunted, the large crowd that had gathered remained in place with umbrellas and rain gear at the ready. They were there to honor and pay tribute to the memory of those members of our Armed Forces who had made the ultimate sacrifice. The serenity of the moment made it seem like the raindrops falling upon them were more like tears falling from above.

The departed above, and those gathered below had every reason to shed tears. This year’s Memorial Day observances came on the heels of despicable acts of bigotry, hatred, and despair as disturbed young men with guns in their hands snuffed out the lives of so many innocent individuals in the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. Ten were killed and three others injured in Buffalo at a Tops Supermarket, while 19 students and two teachers were gunned down in their classroom at an Uvalde elementary school.

As has been the case in the all-too-many senseless massacres across America in the past few years, the immediate aftermath has been the same. Tears are shed, prayers are offered, makeshift memorials dot the killing sites, and people plead ‘no more’ and ‘this has got to stop.’ Yet sadly, no reasonable solutions have ever resulted. Instead, copy-cat deranged societal outcasts seem emboldened to plan and carry out similar acts of violence.

I listened in stunned silence as Christ Episcopal Church Reverend Kyle Murphy recited the propensity of these senseless acts to his parishioners in a Sunday sermon.

“In 2017, there were 18 mass shootings; in 2018, there were 19; 2019, there were 29; 2020, 17; 2021, there were 25. In 2022, there have been 33 — twenty-seven of them in schools — and the year is only half over. One in four of these shooting victims in this country have been children.

“What are we doing about this hell we seem to be living in? Yes, we can pray, dear God; we need to pray — and pray hard, but we also must do something because, in short, we are doing nothing. I think we are caught in a cycle. Shock, Facebook postings, moments of silence, followed by total silence…well, at least until the next one happens. Then it is repeat cycle.”

We must do something.

As the Reverend continued his sermon, my mind flashed back to the day before and the program at the Veterans Park remembrance. There, guest speaker retired Lt. General Earl B. Hailston, a USMC Viet Nam combat veteran, recounted the chilling heroism of two young Marines who, in a time of peril, did do something.

The Marines, one of whom had just arrived in Iraq and another who would be going home in a few days, were assigned guard duty at the gates of a military compound where two battalions of American soldiers were sleeping.

Lt. General Hailston posed this question to the gathering. What would you do if you had six seconds to live?

He spoke of the gallantry of these two Marines as a suicide bomber driving a truck appeared to approach the gate at high speed just 60 yards away. The Marines stood at their post for the last six seconds of their lives, firing at the oncoming vehicle. They shot the driver, who then exploded his deadly cargo within yards of the compound entrance. Both Marines were killed, but the lives of hundreds of soldiers sleeping in the compound’s barracks were saved. It took but six seconds.

Those ten shoppers in the Buffalo market and the 19 students and two teachers in the Uvalde school had no idea they had but 6 seconds to live when the shooting rang out.

Instead of finding someone to blame, let’s do something!
– “If you believe it’s a gun issue, do something about it.
– If you believe it’s a mental health issue, do something about it.
– If you believe it’s a morality issue, do something about it.
– If you believe it’s a political issue, do something about it.”
– If you believe it’s a lack of community, not enough love, not enough prayer, do something about it.

Rightly so, the American people are sickened by these senseless killings. But solutions to the problem cannot be heaped upon ridding the Constitution of the Second Amendment. The Amendment was carved by our forefathers 231 years ago in 1791. It simply states:

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

For over two hundred years, the words were profound until the disturbed madness of recent decades brought about measures of Amendment hysteria. Think about it — most of the noise coming from politicians and celebrity do-gooders is from those very people who are surrounded by gun-toting bodyguards paid to protect them. Do those politicians and celebrity types want the guns taken away from those protecting them? That is a question first-graders could answer correctly.

But clearly, something has to be done. Law-abiding citizens have the right to bear arms, but at least to this writer, there needs to be:
– Comprehensive background checks for anyone purchasing a gun.
– A reasonable waiting period must be established.
– Gun safety courses must be passed by first-time gun owners (similar to the type of training required to obtain a driver’s license)
– Assault-type weapons must not be sold to private citizens.
– Limits on ammunition sales must be established.

As Reverend Murphy concluded his message, he told of a cliff-climber faced with some perilous danger.

The climber was repelling down a rocky cliff when he saw he was headed for a very large hole in the rock. Panicked, he froze, fearing he was about to die. From the ground, the instructor tried calming him with words of encouragement. The climber didn’t want to hear any of the advice being given.

But then he heard the words that empowered him to negotiate the rest of the cliff without incident; “If you can’t get out of it, get into it.” Bone-deep, he knew there was no way out of his dangerous situation except to go deeper into it to bring himself to safety.

Reverend Murphy then finished his message.

“If you can’t get out of it, get into it. Bone deep, we know this truth. We know we need to get into this. A solution to this problem for a lot of reasons isn’t easy for us in this country, but we seem to think that because we do not have the perfect solution, we can’t have any solution. The truth is this is a multi-faceted problem, so we need a multi-faceted response.”

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”

The good people among us greatly outnumber the bad. But the good people feel they do not have the power, voice, or solution to solve a problem at hand. We all have unique skills. However limited they may be, these skills need to be directed at the bad people and the bad circumstances that have fueled the evil within to inflict this senseless rage against the vulnerable among us.

For us and our nation to collectively get out of this mess, we’ve got to get into it. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?