William Wilberforce and Gun Control
May 12, 1789. William Wilberforce, the brilliant British politician, began championing the abolition of slavery. Recognizing that slavery was a national crime—“a wretched trade” that blighted the British empire—he dedicated 46 years of his life to the cause, learning of the passage of his Bill for the Abolition of Slavery only three days before his death.
Along his tenacious political path, Wilberforce sparred with a large contingent of angry, fear-mongering slave holders, many of whom occupied the powerful, wealthy halls of Parliament. Faced with assertions of financial collapse and a shift in Parliamentary power, Wilberforce never wandered from his most effective rhetorical tool: logic. Refusing to rely on a rage worthy of the atrocities perpetrated on African men, women and children, Wilberforce convinced his hard-hearted audience by means of irrefutable fact.
“I will call the attention of the House to one species of evidence which is absolutely infallible. Death, at least, is a sure ground of evidence, and the proportion of deaths will not only confirm, but if possible, will even aggravate our suspicion of their misery in the transit.”
Referring to the hideous journey from the shores of Africa to the slave trade in Jamaica, Wilberforce contended that, on average, over 50 per cent of the ships cargo expired before reaching its destination. “The number of deaths speaks for itself, and makes all such inquiry superfluous… a trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this, must be abolished.”
Relying on factual evidence, he eventually—46-years-worth of eventually—convinced Parliament to abolish slavery.
May 24, 2022. Lexi Rubio kissed her mother goodbye and skipped into Robb Elementary School, a very happy 10-year-old. Two days before summer break, she was on the A-honor roll and not long after the award ceremony, her Texas holiday would commence in earnest—swimming, large family gatherings, overnight friends, late night movies.
That morning, waiting in school traffic, Kimberly Rubio had told her daughter, “I love you and I’ll pick you up after school.”
She never saw her daughter again.
By 11:50 am, Lexi, along with 18 of her classmates and two of her teachers, lay dead on an elementary school floor. Blood splatter, like a Texas slaughterhouse, covered the floors and walls.
Eighteen-year-old Salvador Ramos had issues, but no one believed it would come to this. Using one of two semi-automatic weapons he had legally purchased several days earlier, Ramos quickly put his firearm to use. On the morning of May 24, after a brief argument with his grandmother, he shot her in the face then drove the 15-minutes to Robb Elementary. Barricading himself in a double classroom, he proceeded to pick-off his victims—including Lexi Rubio—in rapid succession.
In the ensuing standoff, he was shot and killed by local law enforcement.
Of course, there will be more details—meticulous, moment-by-moment timelines; unrelenting character analysis and motive theories; finger-pointing, blame-shifting, shoulda, woulda, coulda—but in the end, none of those details really matter.
May 25, 2022. In 21 weeks, America has experienced 213 mass shootings. If you’re counting—and you should be—that’s about 10 per week. Two hundred and fifty three people murdered in 21 weeks.*
Imagine a crime scene with 253 people scattered about. Bodies mutilated, a river of blood, a scene out of Saving Private Ryan. Absolute horror, not only because of the visual shock, but these dear folks are civilians: men, women and children. Americans killing Americans; like a self-inflicted War on Ukraine, destroying lives, families, homes, communities, the present and the future.
William Wilberforce not only envisioned the horrors of slavery, he examined them like a driven, meticulous lawyer. Pouring over documents, visiting slave ships, interviewing captains, slaves and slave-holders. He held the chains in his hands, ran his hands over the wounds, smelled death. He spent over half his lifetime, many days wracked by failing health and dark nightmares, pouring over the deeply entrenched practice of slavery.
His conclusion? “The number of deaths speaks for itself, and makes all such inquiry superfluous…”
I would suggest the same holds true for our own American atrocity. No matter mental stability issues, security failures, lockdown trainings, political differences, second amendment demands, NRA profit-loss statements or the American belief that more guns means more safety. It is all superfluous.
The fact is: “The number of deaths speaks for itself...” Too many have died (as of this writing, 17,951 deaths from gun violence in 2022 alone). Many more have died and will die because of easy access to guns.
Common sense (logic) dictates stricter gun control laws. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure that out. Dangerous people getting access to guns?—make them more difficult to purchase. An entire nation living in fear for their children?—ban semi-automatic weapons, the ones that were made to kill people quickly and efficiently. America becoming the Wild Wild West?—do what Wyatt Earp did, restrict the use of guns.
Were we to encounter Wilberforce today, I suspect he would effortlessly I.D. the source of our unmitigated, bloody sorrow: Congressmen, like the slave owners of the 18th and 19th century, who value power and wealth over life. It took Wilberforce 46 years to convince the British Parliament that slavery equals death. How long will it take our Congressmen to admit the facts? Unrestricted access to guns equals death to Americans. When will they be willing to forfeit their congressional power—and their NRA support—to protect our lives? When will they ignore public opinion and do what is right for the American people? When will they place a higher value on life than their sacred job security?
It’s been over 73-years since the first recorded mass shooting in the US. It’s time we put an end to this wretched trade, this gun free-for-all on American soil.
* This figure is not based on what Congress considers a mass shooting (three or more people must be killed to be considered a mass shooting), but on the intent of the mass shooter, which involves the killing of at least 1-person and the injury of others that were assaulted.