Opinion | Scott M. Estill: A time to celebrate America?

Happy 246 years of independence America! Time to fire up the grills (although the hot dogs and burgers will cost you about 15% more than last year) and invite the neighbors over for a celebration (walk and not drive, as gas costs 38% more than last year). No fireworks in Frisco, but at least there are still parades.

Seriously, there is actually much to celebrate in this country right now. We are fortunately not fighting any (direct) military battles now, and I realize how lucky I am to live in this country at this time in history. I can wake up and see across the Dillon Reservoir to beautiful mountains and the now-green ski runs at Keystone. I have access to any food or beverages that I may want, along with shelter and clothing.

I don’t think our founding fathers could have imagined how far we as a nation have come in our two and a half centuries. They certainly would not have expected that women would be able to vote (and actually elect women to hold political office) or that descendants of slaves would have their legal freedom.

I think they would have predicted that America would be a world leader in terms of technology and military superiority. To list the achievements that Americans have made in medicine, technology and basic social living comforts today would fill several comprehensive volumes in a library.

America was founded following a successful revolution and so the founders would not have been surprised at our historical success on the battlefield. They would have been surprised by what war looked like in the 20th century. Still, they would have expected us to prevail against the dark forces destroying Europe 80 years ago.

By almost any measure, America today is in much better shape than it was in 1776. Yet, despite all of the great achievements, America is not in good shape today. Any country that continues to see its most vulnerable as mere statistics when these horrific slayings continually happen cannot be a country in good shape.

I was recently visiting my 91-year-old mother outside of Chicago and she asked me why “they” can’t do something about this insanity. I thought about her comment in the context of who “they” is.   

The gun control legislation passed in 1994 under President Clinton was strongly opposed by the NRA. Yet, the Senate voted 95-4 in favor of passing the law. The control measures were also supported by three former presidents, who signed a joint letter urging support for it. It was allowed to expire in 2004 and has virtually no chance of being passed today because “they” are stopping it.

The U.S House recently passed a “red flag” bill to permit a police officer or family member to request a federal judge to remove firearms from people who are deemed to be at significant risk to harming themselves or others. The hold on the weapons is temporary and a hearing must be held within two weeks. This law is currently in operation in 19 states and is supported by about 70% of the U.S population.

Even though this bill passed in the House there is little chance of finding 60 senators to even permit a vote on the measure in the Senate. All to preserve the sacred filibuster, a term found nowhere in the Constitution. The framers of the constitution would be most disappointed to learn that such a small minority of the population was overriding the will of a majority of the American citizens.

Thankfully, there appears to be some movement, however slight, on some sort of weapon regulations in the U.S. Senate. It even “encourages” the states to pass the red-flag laws that it cannot muster the courage to pass on its own. Does any lawmaker really believe temporarily removing weapons from people experiencing a mental health crisis is not a step in the right direction? A country that lacks the simple compassion to remove weapons from those experiencing a mental health crisis and are in danger of suicide or homicide is a country that really has lost its way.

The national gun control conversation started with Al Capone and heated up in the 1960s following political assassinations and a substantial increase in gun violence. The Gun Control Act of 1968, for instance, raised the purchase age to 21 and banned all felons and those found “mentally incompetent” from legally owning a gun. The NRA supported this bill and it passed the U.S. Senate by a 70-17 margin. Times have certainly changed.

I love this country, but it is seriously broken. I hope we can look at this coming Fourth of July with a view that as a part of our independence, we look to solve this problem before it’s too late. It is already too late for the many victims of this violence. I am tired of waiting while nothing more is done. Our kids deserve way better than this.

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