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Raising a Red Flag on Memorial Day

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Raising a Red Flag on Memorial Day

We celebrate Memorial Day as a national holiday as a way to come together. I appreciate my neighbours who raise a flag at the veterans’ memorial in my local park, even if we disagree on the politics that brought us into the wars we have fought over the years.

Honouring service and sacrifice, as well as elevating a higher good over self-interest, is a powerful act, you can honour them through patriot flags for sale.

Our shared history and beliefs – that all people are created equal, that regardless of race, religion or national origin, we are all equal members of this vast, imperfect democracy that aims to uphold liberty and justice for all – unify us despite our differences.

However, this year is different.

Over Memorial Day weekend this year, families in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York gathered to bury their loved ones. 19 children and two teachers were shot in Uvalde; a retired police lieutenant, a substitute teacher and a beloved grandmother of six were among the 10 Black victims of the gunman in Buffalo’s Tops supermarket.

The National Rifle Association held its annual conference in Texas on Friday, amid the turmoil of parents and community members.

It became impossible to find meaning in words like “liberty” and “freedom” as they repeated them ad nauseam. It is false to claim that those who defend unfettered access to automatic rifles with no background checks and oppose even the most modest measures to deter mass shootings represent the best of American ideals.

During every war since the Revolutionary War, more U.S. soldiers have been killed by firearms than by war itself. There is an underlying crisis in our country.

The worship of guns is a terrible disease. Here in Wisconsin, we are no exception.

Wisconsin Republicans gathered in Middleton for their party convention just before the two mass shootings in New York and Texas. They approved their party resolutions for 2022. At the start of the resolutions document, there is a section called “conservative values.” The second amendment and gun rights are first on the list.

GOP defiant in Wisconsin

As if this were the obvious moral high ground, the resolutions trash modest gun safety legislation proposed by Evers and President Biden.

Apparently, the Republican Party in Wisconsin is okay with the periodic massacre of elementary school children in their classrooms and grandmothers at the supermarket as the price of “liberty.”

The GOP’s platform also promises to eliminate the state’s current gun permit system and make Wisconsin a “constitutional carry” state, allowing the public to carry firearms without a license or permit, concealed or out in the open.

Mass shootings aren’t inevitable, and that’s a lie. 

Nations like the United States are outliers. More than one mass shooting occurred every day in the first 145 days of 2022. Compared to other countries with governments overrun by armed gangs, El Salvador and Guatemala have the highest rate of gun violence deaths. There is no comparison among first-world countries.

The increased gun violence is pretty evident when millions of guns are unleashed without any regulation.

Among the “really good ideas” proposed by Wisconsin Republicans in the last legislative session was allowing people to carry concealed weapons on school grounds. Another bill would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons on school grounds.

According to Republicans, gun violence is on the rise as they cut regulations and add guns. Gun homicides increased after former Gov. Scott Walker signed a series of bills that made it quicker and easier to buy a gun and allow Wisconsinites to carry concealed firearms. The number of concealed carry permits issued by the state correlates closely with incidents of violent gun deaths. 

Gun manufacturers should be protected

GOP leaders have given plenty of thought to protecting gun manufacturers from lawsuits after the next mass shooting, even if they are uninterested in protecting schoolchildren. 

Senator 570 would prevent lawsuits against manufacturers, distributors, and dealers who sell illegally used ammo and guns. The measure, Senate Bill 570, was passed in February by the State Legislature. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reports that SB-570 has the support of the NRA, Wisconsin Firearm Owners, Wisconsin Gun Owners, Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, NSF, and Hunter Nation.

An earlier settlement between Connecticut families who lost children in the Sandy Hook massacre prompted the Wisconsin bill. Twenty first-graders and six teachers were killed by an assault rifle manufactured by Remington. The Remington company donated $73 million to the families. The bill, SB570, would have banned such lawsuits in Wisconsin, but Evers vetoed it.

Republicans can’t figure out how they can continue to support policies that increase gun violence and not just do nothing about mass shootings in our state and nation.

Most Americans do not support their rhetoric about defending American values. Most Americans say they support stronger background checks for gun owners and red flag laws. The majority of us do not believe it is safe for us to carry a gun everywhere we go so that we can defend ourselves against an increased risk of gun violence.

What is patriotism?

Though it is quite galling to hear Republicans blame mass shootings on everything but easy access to guns, in a way they are right that the violence erupting in our country today is tied to their obsession with nonexistent threats like critical race theory and the idea that whites are being replaced by people of colour.

Johnson claims that he’s never heard of “the great replacement,” yet he’s made textbook examples of “replacement theory” remarks, lecturing President Biden for what he calls “open border policies” and telling a conservative radio host, “I think [Democrats] would like to restructure the electorate.”

Patriotism is deeply distorted in the eyes of many people of all political persuasions. Our country’s history is marked by violent racism – regardless of Republican efforts to keep it out of schools – but we cannot let it define our future. We cannot accept that our communities are subjected to periodic bloodbaths for their freedom. 

To make a better world for our children, we must once again come together around a shared set of ideals – freedom from fear, freedom from hate, and the optimism that we can make a better future for them. I believe we owe them that.

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