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Opinion
Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

Maybe We Should Build A Wall For Victims Of Gun Violence

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Maybe we should build a wall.

Not the wall at the border. I’m thinking more along the lines of the wall at the Vietnam Memorial. A big hunk of granite, a long list of names. All the people who have died from gun violence in America.

We’re gonna need a lot of stone.

Save a space for Rose Mallinger. You might have read about her over the weekend after the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh. She was 97, old enough to remember the Holocaust, old enough to see Israel become a nation, old enough to survive nearly a century in this hard world. She was shot to death at the Tree of Life.

Leave some room for Joaquin Oliver. He was 17 when he was killed in the shootings at Parkland High School in February. He was born in Venezuela but had become a naturalized citizen in the U.S. In other words, he left what’s often considered the most dangerous country in the world, only to be shot to death at his school. Joaquin’s father wears his son’s old basketball shoes as a way to remember.

Carve out a spot for Cynthia Hurd. She was worshiping at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston three years ago on the night Dylann Roof walked in. Cynthia was the sister of Malcolm Graham, the former Charlotte City Council member and state senator. She managed one of the branches of the Charleston County library. Now that branch is named after her.

I could do this all day. I mean literally all day. Start with the 11 dead at the Tree of Life, and the 17 at Parkland, and the nine at Emanuel. Don’t forget the 26 at the church in Texas, and the 49 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and the 58 at the concert in Las Vegas. I started writing this commentary early Monday morning, and by the time I was done there was another here in Charlotte: A student at Butler High School, shot to death on campus. One of his classmates is in custody.

If you only count shootings in which four or more people are killed, more than 1,100 people have died in mass shootings in America over the past 50-some years. But most die in a steady drip, one at a time. A not-for-profit called the Gun Violence Archive has documented more than 12,000 deaths from guns in America this year alone.

This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, for the record: Our elected officials, at nearly every level of government, have been complete cowards when it comes to any sort of rational gun control in this country. After the Tree of Life shootings, our president suggested that maybe the synagogue should have had better security. This is sort of like saying that if there was an outbreak of malaria, we should all just cover our houses in nets instead of trying to get rid of the damn mosquitoes.

So we should build this wall, and the NRA should pay for it. That organization, more than any other, has transformed America from a nation of hunters and responsible gun owners to a nation on permanent lockdown. There’s no public place where you can relax and feel safe anymore. You cannot even come to a house of worship and feel the presence of God without keeping one eye open for a stranger in the room. Churches are supposed to welcome strangers. Now, I suppose, we’ll have to pat them down.

In the meantime, let’s go ahead and build that wall. And make sure to leave plenty of blank space. You know, and I know, that more names are coming.

Tommy Tomlinson’s commentaries appear every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. They represent his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to his commentaries in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.