Gun Violence Prevention Takes A Big Step Forward With The Sit-In On The Hill.

I was a college sophomore in 1964 when I went to my first demonstration against the Viet Nam War.  There were maybe 10 of us; we stood outside an armed forces recruiting center in New York’s Times Square and handed out leaflets for an hour or two, had some very brief conversations with a few pedestrians, none of whom even knew where Viet Nam was, and then we went home.

vietnam           Even though I continued to demonstrate against the war over the next few years, it wasn’t easy to get folks involved.  Congress routinely voted military appropriations, most people, even those against the war didn’t really pay it much attention, and the government was able to convince a majority of Americans that we could still find a way to win.

The 1968 Tet offensive changed all that.  For the first time, these rag-tag guerrillas called Viet Cong engaged front-line American troops throughout South Viet Nam, inflicted heavy casualties and almost overran our big air base at Da Nang.  The photo above was part of a news film that played on every national news television program the 2nd day of Tet.  It showed a South Vietnamese colonel shooting a ‘suspected’ Viet Cong sympathizer in the head.  It was graphic, it was brutal, and it demolished our government’s argument that we were fighting for a good cause.  If you know anyone who says they were not involved in an anti-war demonstration on a college campus after Tet, they are either lying or spent the whole year comatose or brain-dead.

The Congressional sit-in led by John Lewis may mark the beginning of the Gun Violence Prevention Tet offensive here in the United States.  Because thanks to Orlando, the issue of gun violence may have finally come into its own.  And what I mean is that, for the very first time in the fifty-plus years that I have been involved with guns, Gun-nut Nation isn’t setting or controlling the terms of the debate. If anyone’s walking through the House chamber saying that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, they are saying it to themselves.  And while you can always count on Cam Edwards, an NRA-funded mouthpiece, to say something bizarrely stupid about anything that even remotely smacks of gun control, his referring to the Democratic lawmakers as ‘criminals and terrorists’ simply demonstrates how far off from center the pro-gun argument has gone.

When you stop to think about it, the loss of 50 lives and the terrible injuries suffered by so many others shouldn’t be needed to spur an honest debate about gun violence. And God knows it takes less than 24 hours each and every day for a good deal more than 50 people to lose their lives thanks to guns.  But for most of us, until and unless we are immediately and directly affected by something, we quickly put bad things out of our minds.  The assassination of the young man on a Vietnamese street by an Army colonel made it impossible in 1968 for anyone to pretend that the Viet Nam War wasn’t wrong.

I think right now that the Gun Violence Prevention community owns the discussion about guns.  And the fact that Hillary has continued to raise the issue whereas Street Thug can’t even get his script approved by the NRA only increases the degree to which the terms and conditions that apply can be set by the side which often found itself unable to make any headway in this debate.

Advocates for Gun Violence Prevention should not make the mistake of thinking that because they were unable to get a bill through Congress means they cannot win the war.  Tet turned Americans against the war in 1968 but the last U.S. troops came home in 1975. It’s going to be a long and difficult struggle; think of how difficult it is for folks who lost someone at The Pulse.

9 thoughts on “Gun Violence Prevention Takes A Big Step Forward With The Sit-In On The Hill.

  1. Mike, I read this to my husband. In 1965, to avoid being drafted into the army after graduation, he joined the Navy. We married 2 weeks after he was commissioned as an Officer. Over the next 5 years, we were Stationed in Norfolk, VA, Italy and Newport, R.I. ( where he taught at Officer Candidate School). When we returned from 2 years in Italy in 1968, It was a challenging time as he was committed to serving his country, while I wanted to protest against the war. His ship roommate died on a swift boat operation with John Kerry’s boat, and his widow was a leader in the March on Washington against the war. I wanted to be there with her, but with 2 babies at home, and a husband who was against me going to DC, So I did not go. It is one a few major regrets of my life and maybe why I am now so passionate about being a GVP activist. We are all a Roebuck of our life experiences and thank you for sharing yours. I cried when I watch the sit In on Periscope last night, as I k ew we were close to the tipping point. Onward Together we will prevail. Thank you for your sharing your knowledge and perspective from inside the community of rational gun owners. 👍

    Sent from Gail Lehmann’s iPad 203-438-7755


  2. Imagine that, a ragtag bunch of insurgents taking on a superior fighting force and a tyrannical government official executing a “suspected” sympathizer. Maybe the founders were on to something when they penned the Second Amendment. What is your take on Due Process Mr. Weisser?

    • Justin: your ignorance of how the rebels prevailed in the American Revolution is breathtaking. The Continental Army was aided in huge measure by the French, (money and arms and THEIR navy) and by the Dutch (money) and by Spain (navy, leadership, troops — no money.) The rebels would have been wiped out by the British early on without massive foreign aide — each contributor of which had their own quarrel with Britain to motivate them. Yes, George’s army was a rag-tag collection of, disorganized, hugely unarmed, scruffy malcontents sick of British tyranny which is precisely why we needed help desperately. Any notion of the rebellious yeoman farmer dashing off to victory with his musket held aloft is pure fantasy and complely out of step with the historical record.

      • Who said anything about the rebels in the American Revolution? I was commenting on Mike’s reference and reverence for the Viet Cong. I did mention the Founders so I can see where you got confused. I am fairly confident they had all that help in mind when they wrote the Bill of Rights and crafted the Second Amendment so that such help would not be needed in the future. It may come to pass that we need a little help again but I doubt we will need another Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben as we have developed a stash of our own Veterans over the years.

  3. “The assassination of the young man on a Vietnamese street by an Army colonel made it impossible in 1968 for anyone to pretend that the Viet Nam War wasn’t wrong.”

    You got the army wrong. The shooter was not American. He was home grown.

    • I never said he was American. I know he was Vietnamese. In fact, he was identified during the broadcast (which I happened to see the night it aired) as a Colonel in the South Vietnamese Security forces and about 6 months later the barracks used by that group was blown up and he was killed.

  4. Mike , I just heard you on NPR talking about guns , and I was impressed! What do you think can be done about the NRA , and why do they have so much power? There are some people that say they have so much power because they are owned and operated by the arms industry, which means the war industry , which means they have enormous power. I am tired of hearing Wayne ” little peter” telling us about the “glory of guns” , and how having a gun is equil to being patriotic . I see the NRA as a terrorist organization , selling fear to sell more and more guns, increasing their profits tenfold , and making this society ever more dangerous , not safer , as they pretend to be making it. Am I paranoid , or are we getting closer to living in an armed encampment? Thanks

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