Unsplash by Chip Vincent

We grieve for the 10 people murdered Saturday in Buffalo, allegedly by a racist teenaged gunman. Remember them:

Celestine Chaney 
Roberta A. Drury
Andre Mackneil
Katherine Massey
Margus D. Morrison
Deacon Heyward Patterson
Aaron Salter Jr.
Geraldine Talley
Ruth Whitfield
Pearl Young.

We continue to grieve in Charleston for nine people murdered almost seven years ago by a racist gunman, then 21. Never forget them:

Cynthia Graham Hurd
Susie Jackson
Ethel Lee Lance
The Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor
The Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney
Tywanza Sanders
The Rev. Daniel L. Simmons
The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
Myra Thompson.

The Saturday deaths of innocent people at a Buffalo grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood rekindles the fear, sadness, disappointment, anger, resentment and hopelessness that ripped through Charleston and the country seven years ago. With more than 200 mass shootings already this year, too many are wondering, “Will it ever end?”

The racism and hate that fuels these crimes and the antipathy that grips too many people in the United States is wrong, oh so wrong. It violates the very soul and decency at the root of the world’s greatest experiment in freedom. 

From Key West to Seattle, too many Americans feel lost that we can’t resolve the two issues linked by these hate crimes — racism and guns. What’s particularly vexing is how many “wake-up calls” the country has had since 2015 — from hate-based shootings in El Paso (21 dead in 2019), Pittsburgh (11 dead in 2018) and Orlando (49 deaths in 2016). Add to that the racial animosity fueled daily on television and the Internet in political discourse as well as at hate rallies like those in Charlottesville in 2017 and rogue policing that led to the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

The burden is growing. It’s a scratchy shroud that bites into our shoulders. It holds back our communities, states and nation. Failure to combat this hate keeps too many from realizing their dreams.

Malcolm Graham, a Charlotte city councilman who lost his sister in the Charleston massacre, rightly describes racism as the country’s Achilles’ heel. “As a country, we need to acknowledge that it exists,” he told the Associated Press. “There’s a lack of acknowledgment that these problems are persistent, are embedded into systems and cost lives.”

But we need to do more. We need to triple-down on efforts to confront hate by reining in the dark Internet, educating youths, celebrating diversity and tearing apart hate groups through the legal system. Unfortunately, it will be hard and take far too long.

What can be done more quickly is to do more to reduce gun violence. It’s a travesty that South Carolina legislators again avoided responsibility to everyone in the state and failed to outlaw hate crimes or close the Charleston loophole that led the Emanuel AME murderer to purchase a gun. 

It’s a travesty that members of Congress haven’t taken national steps to reduce gun violence. Some common-sense steps that should happen sooner than later, as suggested by the Center for American Progress and the Prevention Institute:

  • Reduce easy access to dangerous weapons;
  • Ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines;
  • Allow federal research of gun violence as a public health issue;
  • Require background checks for all gun sales; 
  • Establish a culture of gun safety; and
  • Bolster the health system for more violence prevention.

Let’s stop having these wake-up calls. Let’s really start doing something about gun violence, not just talking about it.

CORRECTION: The print version of this column included an editing error in the list of Charleston victims. Ms. Hurd was a librarian, not a pastor.

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