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OPINION

Watkins: Slaughter should embarrass Americans

Tom Watkins

America’s national absurdity continues.

Outside of those regions who are at war with their neighbors and themselves, America holds the dubious distinction of being number No. 1 in the world in the slaughter of innocent people from handguns wielded by our fellow human beings.

We ought to be embarrassed, ashamed and disgusted. Yet what we are is divided.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” He might just as well have been prophesying our 21st century future — he was right then and is just as right today.

As a nation, we should not be continually witnessing the senseless slaughter of innocent citizens by our own people just because we are petrified to seek common sense solutions in dealing with gun violence in our country.

Rather than coming together to seek a shared vision and common agenda on our national human stain, we retreat to our respective political corners and shoot political talking points from the left and the right at each other. It is tragic.

If we do not come together now to address this madness, we risk giving up the very soul from which this great nation began.

When are Americans going to recognize that senseless slaughter can be minimized and prevented if we mesh quality mental health services with sensible, enforceable, and strong gun ownership laws? When will we demand that violence not be peddled as the norm which passes for entertainment in our living rooms and movie houses?

Americans say they are fed up with senseless gun violence. But haven’t we as a nation grown far too complacent about protecting the status quo? That very status quo is killing our citizens and rotting the moral fabric of this country from the inside out.

When the rate of children killed by guns in the United States is 19.5 times higher than similar high-income countries in the world, America we have a problem.

It will take an intense, well-funded campaign to get congressional votes to help mandate a stop to the gun madness in this country. Thoughtful Americans must organize and advocate for a balanced approach to gun law in America including, at a minimum:

■Establishment of sensible gun controls allowing for sale and legitimate gun ownership for sport, self-protection or collection purposes. Ban the sale of assault weapons with ammunition clips capable of shooting dozens of high-powered bullets in seconds.

■Address the culture of violence perpetuated by Hollywood, the video and entertainment industries. Video games, masquerading as “entertainment,” are corrosive to young minds and do not support a healthy and stable society.

■Make available and affordable, quality mental health services for people with serious mental illness. Start the conversation about the use of these services in our communities to help each other. Stress efforts to end the stigma that often prevents persons in need from seeking treatment.

Creating sensible laws, keeping weapons off our streets and out of the hands of deranged people — this is not a violation of America’s Second Amendment right. Sensible gun laws do not interfere with the rights of legitimate gun ownership.

A Pew Research Center survey about gun rights and control, conducted this summer, pointed out: “Almost eight in 10 people surveyed support laws to prevent people suffering from mental illness buying firearms, while 70 per cent backed the creation of a database on gun sales and almost 60 per cent wanted to see assault weapons banned.”

I believe we as a nation are capable of solving the most intractable problems if we, the American people, come together and act. As a nation, those innocents who died deserve more than mere condolences.

Tom Watkins is the president and CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority