Of the many mood-altering news flashes that I encounter each day, two have put a pit in my soul: First, the angry faces of screaming, assault-rifle wielding protestors in Lansing, Michigan. Second, the story of Calvin Munerlyn, a security guard at a Flint, Michigan Family Dollar Store. When Mr. Munerlyn told a shopper that she had to wear a mask in the store she argued and then spit on him. Her husband and son entered the store and one of them shot the him to death.
It is time we do something about curtailing death-dealing weapons in our cities. The Second Amendment should not give people the right to terrorize a community by waiving assault rifles and shouting vile threats; or, to shoot people with whom they disagree over a public policy. I believe that I and other citizens have a right to feel safe when we walk on city streets, shop in a store or (like Calvin Munerlyn) carry out our responsibilities at work–––and that right should not be superseded by Second Amendment rights.
While the protest in Lansing and the killing in Flint are very different events, they are united by what is becoming a culture of anger and vitriol. The Flint killing is a tragic event that will have a lasting effect for the Munerlyn’s family, and for our American community. Violence is never an effective method to resolve a grievance, and it is more than a truism to say that violence begets more violence. The perpetrators of the killing have been arrested and will be dealt with under the law.
Vile, Gun-backed Hatred
With regard to the unruly mob protesting Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s social distancing policies, they have been effective only in boosting their status among like-minded right-wing zealots. President Trump called these armed hate mongers “very good people.” They were so good at spreading fear that some Michigan legislators donned bullet-proof vests when the protestors gathered outside the legislative chambers.
This protest was organized by Michigan United for Liberty and was dubbed the American Patriot Rally. It seems to me that these “patriots” see their liberty to act like idiots as a license to deny liberty to those who support life-saving policies in the midst of a pandemic.
They seem to believe they have a right to ignore social distancing guidelines and to greet others without wearing a mask. I, therefore, also assume they believe their rights take precedence over those of people who see restricting movement and prohibiting large-group gatherings are life-saving components in the virus-fighting tool kit. It also seems to me that they know their case is so weak it cannot be argued logically and must, therefore, be forced on us through threats of violence.
I have appeared hundreds of times before city, county, state and federal elected officials, often in opposition to a public policy. Sometimes, especially when the issue involved families and children in poverty, I was angry when I walked into a hearing room or an office. But I never brought a weapon other than my own passion and intellect. I won my share of such encounters, and I lost perhaps more than my share, but I never had to shout epithets or to threaten violence. My guess is that if I had stayed outside, raised a gun and shouted slurs instead of coming in peace, I would not have been effective.
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.