We should all listen carefully to Richard Martinez, and we should keep listening with a resolute intention to help alleviate that man’s anguish and outrage.
Martinez is the 61-year-old father of Chris Martinez, the 20-year-old college student who was murdered in cold blood while entering a convenience store last week during a madman’s killing spree in Santa Barbara. The berserk gunman killed seven people, including himself. He wounded 13 others.
Clearly staggered by the death of his beloved son, Martinez struggled to regain control at a press conference. Saying his family is now “lost and broken” and his only son now dead, Martinez broke down, choking back tears, during a heartrending mixture of grief, anguish and rage.
“Why did Chris die?” he asked. “Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA (National Rifle Association). 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. You don’t think it’ll happen to your child until it does.”
Martinez’s anger and tears peak when he talks about he had 20 good years with his son, unlike the parents of the little children slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, unimaginably horrible killings that Martinez thinks should have persuaded politicians to pass stricter gun laws.
Martinez’s series of impassioned questions (“When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness; we don’t have to live like this?’”) are all too familiar questions. They were asked after Columbine; they were asked after Virginia Tech; they were asked after Aurora; they were asked after Sandy Hook. The answers, of course, are never forthcoming. People, including craven, irresponsible politicians drift off whistling Dixie. NRA officials keep saying the same insultingly stupid things: More guns is the answer, more guns in the hands of good people is the only thing that will stop bad people from killing others. So says the ultimate parrot, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA. Martinez’s painful, anguished press-conference comments should be televised immediately after every self-serving bilge that comes out of the mouth of LaPierre, the darling of gun manufacturers.
We can be sure LaPierre will, once again, claim it was severe mental illness – not guns – that pushed that deranged Santa Barbara gunman over the edge. And, of course, that’s true, partly. He did purchase the guns legally, and he was very adept at hiding his mental illness, not mentioning his treatments and medications he was supposed to be taking.
And yet, still, Martinez’s cry of anger and anguish cannot be dismissed. His outrage goes right to the heart, to the gut. It’s the unbearable grief experienced by every parent who has lost a child to these gun-blazing fiends. Martinez vented the anger that all parents feel, and we should all listen to it and heed it.
We’ll never stop all rampage killings, but the least the U.S. Congress can do is beef up the laws governing access to guns, insist on universal background checks, give more funding to vital mental-health services and quit kowtowing to the NRA and its supposed defense of the Second Amendment when it is, in fact, gun manufacturers it seems most eager to serve and to protect.
Beyond the issues of guns and mental illness, this country has got to get over its obsession with violence. One TV commentator, noting how the Santa Barbara killer had repeatedly watched violent video “games” said his own sons watch the same videos with no ill effects. That kind of blithe dismissal, an implicit condoning of violent videos, is despicable.
And it’s not just violent videos that should turn our stomachs. A recent TV ad features men and women on a company “vacation,” playing a game of “Paintball” in the woods, with “bullets” banging into chests, fake blood splattering everywhere and shot-up victims jerking spasmodically in slow motion. That disgusting ad is “brought to us” by bookings.com. You see, after their sportive, gun-fun bloodbath, the “warriors” emerge from the woods, happy to see the swank hotel in the distance their company had booked for them.
It’s interesting the killer’s father was the assistant director of the hit movie Hunger Games, yet another Hollywood saga of murder and mayhem.
With that kind of vile crap saturating American culture, is it any wonder in this gun-crazed nation that kids – and adults – can go so wrong? And, by the way, what kind of “adult” would enjoy the vicarious slaughtering that occurs in these video “games.”
Mr. Martinez, keep talking, keep expressing your anguish and outrage. Maybe, just maybe, some of those craven, irresponsible scoundrels (aka politicians) will start listening.