Commentary: Nonprofits Can Help Prevent The Need To Grieve

June 15, 2016       Paul Clolery      

It is somewhat ironic that the Broadway hit musical “Hamilton” won 11 Tony awards on Sunday just hours after a crazy person with a weapon he should not have been allowed to legally purchase massacred 49 people and wounded 50 more at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Alexander Hamilton was shot to death, albeit in a far less public manner. The nation’s love affair with guns is deep-seeded, seemingly eclipsing our love for each other. And, it’s not something that has occurred overnight.

It was barely sunrise on July 11, 1804 when several rowboats pushed off the banks of Manhattan headed to Weehawken on the shores of New Jersey. One boat carried Hamilton, the nation’s former Treasury Secretary and another carried Aaron Burr, the sitting Vice President of the United States.

A third boat carried pistols. Dueling was illegal in New York, but legal in New Jersey. It’s just like now where it’s easier to obtain weapons in some states and not in others.

Burr shot his political rival after Hamilton fired, in the gentleman’s way, to miss the intended target and end the event without bloodshed. Burr didn’t miss. Hamilton died the next morning. The gentleman’s way doesn’t occur much anymore.

Brian Gallagher at United Way Worldwide, Kevin Washington at YMCA of the USA, Emmett Carson at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Susan Desmond-Hellman at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Jo Ann Jenkins at AARP, Amir Pasic at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Lisa Paulsen at the Entertainment Industry Foundation have work to do. They have the deep pockets, real estate and access to influencers to begin community meetings of inclusion and legislative action to put an end to the slaughter. This might be outside their current mission statements but these are different times.

These organizations have the clout and networks to begin seriously prodding those running for election this fall. Make no mistake. This will be an issue in the presidential campaigns. These meetings would not be solely about gun issues. They would be to band communities together in understanding to try to prevent these atrocities. Most of these mass shootings are semi-planned; the shooter is rarely the only person to know something is about to happen.

The nonprofit agenda should be on many levels: The public health emergency being caused by gun violence; sensible gun control; background investigations that are more than checking to see if the applicant is simply breathing; community organizing that is effective yet does not suffocate the American spirit; and, data collection and database integration in a manner that preserves all that we find dear, which includes being able to go to a nightclub and forget your worries.

Guns these days no longer hold just one shot, as we saw in Tucson, Ariz., where a deluded individual wielded a semi-automatic weapon with a 31-round clip and nearly killed Rep. Gabby Giffords. He did kill six people that day, wounding 19. Nowadays you do not need to be a particularly good marksman.

Burr was vice president to Thomas Jefferson from 1801 through 1804. During that time, Jefferson wrote: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” From the idea of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that tyranny easily includes the right not to be afraid to walk the streets of your own neighborhood.

Gun violence in this nation is long out of control and the events in Tucson, Sandy Hook and now Orlando are just the latest evidence. These events also demonstrate that the opposing arguments about the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are both flawed and the nonprofit sector needs to get involved more aggressively.

There is little doubt the founders intended Americans to keep and bear arms. That right is detailed in the Second Amendment, the key word being amendment. It was not part of the original document ratified in 1788 by 39 of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention. The first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were not enacted until 1791. The argument that the right to bear arms is constitutionally sanctioned and cannot be repealed ignores the legislative process which bestowed the right in the first place.

The Founding Fathers never imagined a 31-clip, semi-automatic handgun, which a deranged person can legally obtain. The fact that in many states a person can carry a concealed automatic handgun or an AR-15 is simply too dangerous a reality.

The favorite argument of many is that if everyone is armed then gun crimes will decrease because of the potential that they will be met with like force. If that is the case, why didn’t the situation in Orlando end more quickly since there was armed security at the site?

When then-Sen. Barack Obama campaigned for the presidency, agitators took the open carry law of the State of Arizona too far by going to rallies with rifles displayed. It made the U.S. Secret Service more than nervous and struck fear into the hearts of many in attendance, threatening the Constitutional right to peacefully assemble without fear. Illinois and Chicago have some of the strictest gun laws in the nation yet the Windy City is becoming a very dangerous place due to gang-related gun violence.

It could be argued that gun violence is a public health issue. But, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has not studied gun violence since funding was stripped some 20 years ago due to lobbying efforts by the National Rifle Association (NRA), which feared that research would be used to advocate or promote gun control. They were probably correct and that’s why such research should be resumed.

Those arguing that all guns should be locked away are likewise wrong. In these challenging economic times, some families really are being fed by the ability to hunt, fish and live off what nature provides. Target shooting is exciting entertainment in a controlled setting. And, yes, there is a rush watching things that go boom.

There is no room, however, for weapons that spray bullets faster than the human mind can count. Every American should have the right to protect themselves in their homes with a legal weapon of choice. That does not allow for weekend warriors to run around the woods with the types of weapons we are trying to prevent the Iraqis and Afghans from obtaining. There is little chance that Canada is going to attack neighboring U.S. states.

Nonprofit leaders have a special opportunity to show why they play such a vital role in the fabric of our nation. If this moment isn’t seized, the concept of a civil society will become as fanciful as a unicorn.