There is a lively and contentious nationwide debate about guns and the violence taking place in America. But despite our own notorious school shooting in Jonesboro some years ago and hundreds of handgun-related killings in our state each and every year, we don’t have to worry about such emotion-filled and potentially policy changing goings-on here in Arkansas. On the subject of guns, our views and actions are unchanging and predictable. So I can easily predict what will take place during 2013 in our steady state.
Our state’s representatives in Washington will follow like sheep the dictates of the gun lobby. They will oppose even those gun regulation measures widely approved in opinion polls by the majority of the American public, and likely most Arkansans. They will see an infringement of the Second Amendment in instances where it is clearly not being broached and will tell us not to forget the looming police state which will emerge if we lose our guns, and that gangs of street thugs also await our disarming.
Members of our state legislature, spouting the same gun lobby rhetoric, will seek to pass laws that will further expand the rights of Arkansans to carry concealed weapons in a variety of places heretofore not permitted, e.g., churches, college campuses, state and local parks, etc. What’s next? Shall we carry in public cemeteries? Perhaps.
Our state’s religious leaders, many of whose congregations reside in the state’s largest and most impoverished and crime-ridden communities, e.g., Pine Bluff, West Memphis, Little Rock, Helena-West Helena, etc. will remain silent on the subject of guns. They will continue to ignore in their sermons and public statements the role that easy access to concealable handguns plays in the bloody carnage that occurs among their congregants. Instead, they will plead for residents to turn to God and reshape their moral values. Clearly a laudable goal, but a bit fewer guns would help too.
Our local city council (despite their proven fondness for ordinance writing) and our mayor will fail to use their legislative powers to pass any kind of ordinance or resolution that will put them on record as supporting the nationwide legislative efforts to curb easy access to guns now under way in the U.S. With our big-city like murder rate, we here in Pine Bluff should join the effort by other municipal officials to control guns. But we will not, and such hesitancy and silence on the subject of guns will be seen in most other cities in the state.
Finally, our state’s residents of all races, many of whom have been personally touched by the gun-related carnage that grips our cities every day, will nevertheless fail to raise their voices in support of the recently proposed and reasonable controls on guns. They will not tell their representatives that restrictions on assault weapons and multi-bullet clips must be accompanied also by renewed efforts to stop the underground, black market flow of handguns into our neighborhoods. They, like their elected representatives, will fall sway to the NRA, who has convinced them that they must pack heat to ward off the criminal bad guys in their neighborhoods and the lurking governmental Big Brother. Meanwhile, we Arkansans and Pine Bluffians, like all Americans, will continue to use our over-abundant supplies of guns to slaughter in large numbers both strangers, intimates and family, commit suicide, or become the victims of accidental gun violence.
Our state’s financial steadiness amid the national economic free-fall of the last decade may prove to be Arkansas’ saving grace for the future. Not so with our NRA-induced stance on guns. Enough already. Would someone please rock this gunboat?
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Darnell F. Hawkins received a doctorate in sociology from the University of Michigan and a law degree from the University of North Carolina. He currently lives in Pine Bluff after retiring from the University of Illinois at Chicago where he specialized in criminal justice.