Christopher Michael-Martinez’s Father Gets It Right

5/27/14
 
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Posted by Adam Gopnik,

from The New Yorker,
5/25/14:

I don’t think I’ve ever been as heartbroken by anything as I was, last night, by the video of Richard Martinez, whose twenty-year-old son, Christopher, a college student at the University of California Santa Barbara, had been murdered the day before. Christopher and six others were killed in a mass shooting near campus. That I have a twenty-year-old son who is also a college student makes an empathetic response easy, almost obligatory—but I suspect that many others felt the same way, and that they felt this way because they were hearing a hard truth spoken clearly. Martinez, almost overcome with a grief that he knows and we know will never fade, not for as long as he lives, still struggled to speak sanely in that moment. And so there was something almost heartening amid the heartbreak. Richard Martinez, in the height of his grief, somehow did the hardest thing there is, and that is to find the courage to speak a painful truth: “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A.,” he said. “They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness; we don’t have to live like this?’ Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: not one more.”

Christopher died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A. That’s true. That the killer in question was in the grip of a mad, woman-hating ideology, or that he was also capable of stabbing someone to death with a knife, are peripheral issues to the central one of a gun culture that has struck the Martinez family and ruined their lives. (The shooter, Elliot Rodger, had three semi-automatic handguns that, according to the Los Angeles Times, he’d purchased legally.) Why did Christopher Michael-Martinez die? Because the N.R.A. and the politicians they intimidate enable people to get their hands on weapons and ammunition whose only purpose is to kill other people as quickly and as lethally as possible. How do we know that they are the ‘because’ in this? Because every other modern country has suffered from the same kinds of killings, from the same kinds of sick kids, and every other country has changed its laws to stop them from happening again, and in every other country it hasn’t happened again. (Australia is the clearest case—a horrific gun massacre, new laws, no more gun massacres—but the same is true of Canada, Great Britain, you name it.)

The actual consequences of the N.R.A. and the gun policy it frightens those craven politicians into sponsoring is the death of kids like Christopher Michael-Martinez. This truth may not triumph tomorrow, but the truth remains the truth. It would be nice if the President, who knows all this perfectly well, put aside his conciliatory manner and his search for consensus and just said it. Speak up, Mr. President! Speak plainly. Just say, “Last night, I heard Chris’s dad. He’s right.”

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