I am a 7th generation South Carolinian on my mother’s side, and a third generation English professor here in South Carolina. My great-great grandparents had a home and land in Rock Hill, SC, and long before the Civil Rights Act and integration, my family would invite Catawba Indians to camp out on their land when Rock Hill was too prejudice to offer American Indians room and board for the night. My mom, descendent from that side of the family, always referred to you as “good ole Lindsey”. Each time you were in the news and despite your conservatism, my mom was sure you were the closest thing to a liberal we would ever see in office in SC. That doesn’t mean that we weren’t pleasantly surprised when you indicated that in 2008, Obama’s election was the result of a constitutionally protected process, fair and square. Again, we were surprised when you voted to confirm Justice Sotomayor and then Justice Kagan, even allowing Kagan, because of your informed questioning, to shine while undergoing her confirmation hearing. We also took interest in and rallied behind our shared concern for the minority vote; when we are liberals in South Carolina, and we never, year after year, make any impact on who the elected officials are, don’t we begin to question the democratic process? Don’t we begin to wonder if somehow the democratic process in South Carolina is rigged in favor of the Republicans or the Tea Partiers? Most recently, we were again surprised by your call for the GOP to change its position on gay marriage; we were humbled by your decision to join Gov. Haley in calling for the removal of the confederate flag after the ruthless murders in Charleston; and we were amused by your self-deprecating humor in the recent primary debate. Undoubtedly, of all the GOP candidates, Sen. Graham, you are our top pick.
What will it take for politicians, who are in the palms of the NRA, to make gun deaths more present in their lives, the suffering these murders cause more palpable in their policies? When will GOP politicians understand that gun legislation is not an assault on second amendment rights? What will it take for politicians to break with the NRA, to cut some ties, and protect the will of the people? Or better yet, to protect the LIVES of the people?
What will it take to stop these murders? I truly believe that the fearmongering from the Republican party and tea party fuels Americans to become paranoid, and to think that liberals like President Obama, Hilary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders are somehow personally going to show up in these people’s homes and neighborhoods and roundup their registered guns. No one has and no one will ever propose that. There are plenty of times that Obama has acknowledged his intention to protect responsible gun owners and his interest in preserving their rights to own guns. Yet since taking office, and even after the Sandyhook Massacre, gun sales continue to rise.
Has anyone in the Republican party read (as an English teacher, I must ask, does the Republican party read?!) retired Justice John Paul Stevens’ book or even the Washington Post article he wrote in 2014? In his discussion of the District of Columbia v. Heller case, Justice Stevens’ so clearly articulates how the second amendment can be protected while limiting access to automatic and semi-automatic weapons:
The specific holding of the case covers only the possession of handguns in the home for purposes of self-defense, while a later part of the opinion adds emphasis to the narrowness of that holding by describing uses that were not protected by the common law or state practice. Prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons, or on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, and laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings or imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms are specifically identified as permissible regulations. (Stevens, 2014).
Thus, Congress’s failure to enact laws that would expand the use of background checks and limit the availability of automatic weapons cannot be justified by reference to the Second Amendment or to anything that the Supreme Court has said about that amendment. What the members of the five-justice majority said in those opinions is nevertheless profoundly important, because it curtails the government’s power to regulate the use of handguns that contribute to the roughly 88 firearm-related deaths that occur every day. (Stevens, 2014).
I say this to you, Senator Graham, because it may only be a politician like you who can get the attention of the GOP to make a stand for the lives of innocent Americans. It may only be a politician like you, who sees the chance and takes it to positively impact America before another mass shooting takes place and snuffs out the lives of young hopeful people who are also trying to make America better.
I challenge you, Senator Graham, to take a stand. I challenge you to do what you’ve done well on so many occasions, and that is to interpret the constitution as it was meant to be interpreted, to protect the rights and liberties of Americans, while also protecting innocent American lives; these things cannot be mutually exclusive. The GOP cannot continue to protect views that, just below the surface, insinuate that black criminals and Latino immigrants have automatic weapons and machine guns and are coming to take STUFF from white law-abiding citizens so white law-abiding citizens need to have big powerful guns, too, to protect themselves from black and brown lawbreakers and gun owners (if you think this is off base, please remember the Mulford Act signed into effect by Reagan and largely supported and demanded by white America). And yet, the recent mass shootings, stealing lives and ruining communities, have been committed by non-black and non-brown individuals.
Even if you lose favor with wealthy GOP supporters in the South and the Midwest, know that if you take a stand to protect American lives by calling for immediate gun control legislation, your name will not be among the politicians who stood idly by and chose deliberately to let our people be murdered. I’m sick of watching active shooter preparedness videos; I’m sick of trying to imagine what each of my classrooms would need to be safe in the event of an active shooter on campus; I’m sick of trying to count up how many of my students, if a shooter entered my class, I could protect before I couldn’t protect any more; I’m sick of worrying about my nieces and nephews and all young people in elementary school settings in this country becoming victims of crisis.
Will you do nothing?
An outraged and grief-stricken citizen,