What lapel pins tell us | Opinion Sharon Kourous 

Gun Rights

AR-15 lapel pins were worn by several Republican congresspersons during the State of the Union Speech. 

Nobody goes around wearing a nuclear bomb mushroom cloud lapel pin. No one puts a pro-chemical weapons sticker on their car or truck. So who wears an AR-15 pin? 

Some kinds of murder have been universally declared beyond the pale: nuclear and chemical warfare so horrify us that we have international agreements to protect everyone from the resultant horrible deaths.   

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But we have become conditioned to accept mass murder in our streets and schools. Perhaps we accept this atrocity because television does not show us those bodies so mutilated only DNA tests will allow identification. War atrocities have always been visible, thanks to media images as well as survivors’ experiences — but mass murder by lone gunmen has become part of who we are; we are horrified for a day, donate to a GoFundMe, mutter thoughts and prayers, and move on because our political leaders fail to protect us. And because powerful interests pull the puppet strings of many of our leaders. So who wears an AR-15 pin? 

Since Columbine, more than 338,000 students in the U.S. have experienced gun violence at school, according to Sandy Hook Promise. The numbers are appalling, and no other advanced nation in the world is as dangerous for its citizens. But if gun ownership really kept us safe, we’d be the safest, since Americans own weapons meant for the battlefield in greater numbers than any other country. 

In 1999 in the days following the Columbine school shooting, the high school students I taught were somber, unusually quiet. Shocked faculty began making plans expecting armed intruders. Our experience with violence in the safe world of school was limited: occasional fights, shoving in the hall, yelling at the opposing team after a game. We didn’t lock the school doors; we didn’t need to. We didn’t have security cameras; we didn’t need them. We didn’t practice intruder drills; we didn’t need to. In that innocent world, mass school shootings were something beyond imagination; something impossible. 

Those students are parents now, and their children grew up in a world where they learn “run, hide, fight” before they learn to tie their shoes. Some of them were there for both Oxford and MSU. Trauma is overwhelming these kids; for them PTSD is “normal.” So who wears a mass murder pin? 

Michigan overwhelmingly wants change. Michigan Public Radio Network reported a statewide poll released in December found that 90% support background checks for those purchasing a gun, and 74% approved of having courts take guns away from those considered dangerous to themselves or others. State Democratic leadership, led by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Attorney General Dana Nessel, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin and others, clearly wants to bring about new protections; and  plans are being advanced for legislation requiring universal background checks to close the private sale loophole, to create secure storage laws to keep legal firearms out of the hands of children and teens, and to establish extreme risk protection orders, or “red flag laws,” which allow the courts to temporarily remove firearms from those who pose a threat to themselves or others. In spite of the hopes of Oxford families, similar proposals last year were defeated by Republicans. 

Michigan’s Republicans surely should have something to say to the families of the MSU students. There’s a reason for their silence: “Great Lakes Gun Rights, an affiliate of the National Association for Gun Rights, has promised to start a recall election against any member that votes in favor of the (proposed) package. It’s one of several growing organizations that take a more hardline stance on firearms legislation than the largest group, the National Rifle Association.” according to a Feb. 28 article on MLive. Only two former Republican legislators, Fred Upton and Dave Trott, have spoken in support of proposed legislation. 

 Since many recent mass shootings have been motivated by racist groups, maybe a new lapel pin with a KKK badge is needed, so we know who really doesn’t give a damn. 

Sharon Kourous is a retired teacher and member of Stronger Together Huddle, a group engaged in supporting and promoting the common good. She resides in Monroe and can be reached at mcneil102@icloud.com  

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