This time last year, the nation sat attempting to process the horrific information being put out by news outlets everywhere. For a moment, we were sent back to 1963, when four girls were killed in a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. But the year was 2015, and although it was a church, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, the bomb became a gun and the death toll grew to nine.
Although this tragedy came 52 years after its most famous predecessor, the motive remained the same: racism.
It was the evening of June 17 at the historically Black Emanuel AME Church and bible study was already in progress when a stranger walked through the front doors. This stranger was a young white man who at first appeared to willfully take solace in the prayer group. Then as the bible study was coming to an end, this man did what he had actually come to do, kill Black people.
The man pulled out a .45-caliber handgun and opened fire, killing six men and three women. Five people were able to flee from the scene and tell their account of what happened on that gruesome evening.
This was a story of someone who was filled with hate and possibly mentally unstable who not only had access to a firearm, but used it to execute a devastating hate crime. At that time, the Black community was angry; especially when certain media outlets vehemently tried to deny that this was a racially motivated attack. After the attack, the nation was forced to take pause when Nadine Collier, the daughter of one of the victims, publicly forgave the man who had just killed her mother.
The image was powerful and emotional, and the outcome turned into, just as it typically does, a conversation about guns. Usually tragedies like the Emanuel AME shooting make us look at our policy on guns and wonder, how far gone are we?
Now, nearly a year to the day, we are forced to engage in the same conversation because of the disgusting actions of one hate-filled, unstable individual.
Although the recent shooting in Orlando did not take place in a church, it did take place in a different place of refuge: a gay club. Pulse nightclub was a place where people, both old and young, could go to truly and freely be themselves. The shooter that entered Pulse last Saturday night also came with a specific intention.
This shooter was someone who clearly had internal conflicts with his own sexuality and radical ideas against Americans. He entered the club on a Latin-themed night, but instead of carrying a handgun, as the Charleston shooter did, he had a AR-15. Now that 49 lives have been senselessly taken, and at least 50 people have been critically injured, once again we ask, how far gone are we?
This shooting has inspired late night television hosts, celebrities and public figures to passionately speak out about the terrible gun purchasing loop holes and gun violence that this country currently faces. And although famous people have spoken out on behalf of the victims, it’s more important to have the people who run the country speak out. And finally, on Wednesday, a Senator from Connecticut decided to stay silent no longer.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy took to the floor in an effort to pressure the Senate to vote on a bill that would ban anyone on the no-fly list from purchasing weapons and tighten gun legislation in general. Senator Murphy has taken a strong stance against guns after the Sandy Hook shooting rocked his state of Connecticut.
He, along with other senators like Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, held the Senate floor for 15 hours, and he Murphy claims that the GOP has agreed to allow a vote on gun control.
Now this appears to be a step in the right direction but we have to remember that this country was built on the idea that every citizen has the right to legally carry a weapon. As long as that remains a fundamental concept of this country, we may still be facing more tragedies to come. In order for real change to occur and for more lives to be saved, stricter and stronger measures need to be taken.
Hopefully the future vote will give us a sense that we are moving in a better direction because aren’t we all tired of asking, how far gone are we?
(Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)