Earlier this week, while we were paying a lot of attention to the presidential primary race, many of the big shots in Detroit turned out for a baby’s funeral. Delric Waymon Miller died when a gunman riddled his home with bullets from an AK-47.
That was, by the way, the standard assault rifle used by our ancient enemy, the old Soviet Union. The USSR is as dead as a dinosaur, but its weapons are still killing Americans.
The police haven’t caught whoever did it, but they think the house was shot up because of a fight over who got to sit where at a baby shower. Even the late Kurt Vonnegut couldn’t make that up. An argument at a baby shower meant a nine-month old baby had to die. A lot of people are dying in Detroit this year, way more than last year, almost all as a result of guns.
Few would normally notice. If a gang member gets “popped,” as they say, by another gang member, it might mean a couple paragraphs in one of the Detroit papers, which in any event are now delivered only three days a week.
Forty-nine people have died in Detroit since New Year’s Eve, unless there were some last night I don’t know about. We are paying slightly more attention than usual, however, for one reason.
More children seem to be involved. A twelve-year-old girl was killed when a teenager shot into her house after an argument over a cell phone. The other day, a fourteen-year-old boy shot his mother to death, apparently because she wouldn’t let him stay out at night.
But it was the senseless murder of nine-month-old Delric which got the most attention -- and a funeral that columnist Laura Berman aptly characterized as “worthy of a mob boss.“ Detroit Mayor Dave Bing impotently said the baby’s murder was “unacceptable.” Police vowed to catch the killer. The U.S. District Attorney vowed to reduce homicides.
The rest of us yawned, knowing none of this would change anything. That’s because everybody is afraid to address the real problem, which is guns. We need to vastly reduce the number of guns in this country, make them harder to get, and take most of them away. Now I realize that some will think this is the most sacrilegious thing I could say, and the most futile. The current Supreme Court says we have a constitutional right to own guns. And we take it as a given that the powerful gun lobby will prevent virtually any restrictions on their use.
So we do nothing to fight it. Well, I think it is time that we did. I was born in an America which thought nothing could be done about segregation either, and in which it was easier to believe in flying saucers than in the possibility of a black president.
We changed that, and we can change this too, if we have the will. There are about nine thousand gun murders in this country every year. In Great Britain, a nation with sensible gun laws, there are about forty. Proportionally, that’s equal to two hundred and forty.
The difference is more deaths in a year than we’ve lost in a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan. If this isn’t a cause worth doing something about, I don’t know what is.