What If Our Dead Kids *DO* Trump Your Gun Rights?

In the farce that was the 2008 campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin, one of the main fools was played by Joe the Plumber. Well, his name wasn’t Joe. And he wasn’t a plumber. But that was the stage name of Samuel Wurzelbacher of Ohio. He was the hood ornament on the Fox-sponsored GOP clown car that year.

Last Friday, a deranged man went on a slashing and shooting rampage, killing six young people near the UC Santa Barbara campus. He then committed suicide, leaving behind a video and a 140-page manifesto that expresses a shockingly demented hatred of women.

Just days later, the country is still reeling from the savagery of this crime, the killer’s unhinged misogyny and the soul-numbing reality of yet another mass shooting of young people in America. But today is the day that ‘Joe the Plumber’ published an “open letter to the parents of the victims” of the Santa Barbara spree. And here is what Mr Wurzelbacher wants the parents – and all of us – to know:

“Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.”

I was certain this was some kind of inappropriate sick satire.

But no, this is a verbatim quote from his letter published on Barbwire.com – which (naturally) boasts “a decidedly biblical worldview”. As you might imagine, this unconscionable affront to the grieving parents of murdered children has set half of the internet on fire… while the other half pours gasoline.

Wait a minute though. I think there is tremendous power in this twisted slur. Think about it. He declares something to be true: Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights. But I think Mr Not-A-Plumber got it exactly wrong. Our dead kids DO trump your gun rights.

Our dead kids. They have names. Cassie, Steve, Corey, Kelly, Matt, Daniel, Rachel, Isaiah, John, Daniel, Lauren, Kyle, Areceli, Kristi, Shawn, Joseph, Cassandra, Susan, Justin, Kayla, Bryan, Randy, Aaron, Seth, James, Bart, Alicia, Thurlene, Chanelle, Chase, Dewayne, Emily, Naomi, Marian, Anna Mae, Lena, Mary Liz, Kirsten, Emily, Ryan, Ross, Brian, Austin, Daniel, Matthew, Caitlin, Rachel, Emily, Matthew, Jarrett, Henry, Lauren, Daniel, Erin, Michael, Julia, Mary Karen, Reema, Leslie, Maxine, Nicole, Catalina, Ryanne, Daniel, Gayle, Ryan, Chavares, Christina, Daniel, Russell, Demetrius, Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, Ana, James, Grace, Emily, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, Allison, Claire, Trayvon, Jordan, Katie, Chris, Veronika… and so many thousands more.

The horrifying fact is that 8 children every day are murdered with a gun in America. In the 15 years since Columbine, more than 43,800 children have been shot to death. In their homes, in their neighborhoods, in their schools, in their churches, in their cinemas and malls. Their short lives, ended, with a bullet.

There is only one way to honor the memory of our kids who have been murdered with guns. There is only one way to give them a voice. There is only one way to save a child – maybe yours – from being murdered with a gun. We must change the laws to more effectively regulate the sale and possession of firearms and ammunition in this country.

What makes this entire situation so galling is that it is a failure of political will. After the massacre of babies at Sandy Hook, various incremental and sensible gun control laws were supported by 70% to 90% of the American people. But the 535 members of the House and Senate were unable to pass anything at all. And the President caved to the political status quo. in the year-and-a-half since Newtown, there has been something on the order of 15,000 gun homicides… 4,000 of the dead are kids under 18.

My friend Peter suggests a simple yet powerful idea: a pledge. Similar to the “Taxpayer Proection Pledge” that Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform have used to successfully bludgeon politicians for 20 years now. It could be implemented immediately and at almost zero cost by an existing gun control advocacy group such as Moms Demand Action. We are in the midst of an election year. Every member of Congress is up for reelection along with 1/3 of the Senate. That is nearly 1,000 candidates for Congress, all drawn to the glare of the tv lights. Take the pledge to each of them, at every campaign stop. Democrats. Republicans. Incumbents. Challengers. Send it to all of their campaigns. Give them a week to return the signed pledge. And then, confront them. Loudly. Publicly. Notify the local media. Ask them to sign the pledge, or to explain why they won’t. It might look something like this:


When 70% or 80% or 90% of Americans want various gun control measures, they should get done. Notwithstanding the NRA’s threats, bribes and extortion. NRA pretends to represent gun owners, but they are paid lobbyists for the gun manufacturers and sellers. Their job is to make America safe for guns. It is the job of Congress to make America safe for Americans. And we must start by defending our children’s lives.

Should our politicians be held to account on gun control issues through the use of a pledge like this? Is there a better way to do it? I’m only interested in constructive ideas. You can spout off about your 2nd Amendment rights… but you should really go do that somewhere else. It’ll never see the light of day on this page.


The End (so far)



  1. I have been born and raised in Western Europe, then I met Mr. America got married and came here. Oh and I learned English :-). I never understood the gun-laws and I never will. I can not comprehend and won’t even try anymore since I can’t wrap my head around it. I hear people say “but, it’s my right” and it makes me sad. JFK comes to mind “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. If my personal right jeopardizes the well-being of other citizens and if my personal right kills innocent children, then it might be time to give up my right. That’s at least what I believe and I have been tarred and feathered for my opinion on the “gun law” before 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well you look pretty good to me in those feathers! 🙂 You know, blind passion (or passionate blindness) is the natural result of ignorance. The people who are whipped into a religious frenzy over their ‘god-given’ rights to have guns… are, for the most part, people who remain (for whatever reasons) fairly ignorant of the wider world. So they are mistrustful of it. They “cling to their guns and their religion” (as a famous future president would be caught saying on tape) as a means of securing their identities in an ever-changing world. They are less educated, less well off, less well traveled and less open to thoughts which are not suggested by their pastors. It’s a problem. It’s not going away any time soon. But if we start the process of gun reforms now, we might have a safer, saner country around the time the waves are crashing against the Rockies.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I share your passion and outrage and reading the list of all-too-familiar names brought tears to my eyes. When I heard Joe the Plumber’s outrageous remarks my stomach sank, knowing that he represents the feelings of so many. I can’t figure it out, quite frankly, but I’m willing to get equally loud, and maybe almost as obnoxious, to put out a completely different point of view. I can badger political candidates, thank you very much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for these words. We’ve been told that everything is beyond our control… government is bought and paid for. It’s like we’re in a trance. Passion and outrage are the keys to overcoming this horrific status quo.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Steve,

    This is one of your very best blogs, and what a brilliant idea to promote the truth that “our dead kids DO trump you gun rights. I hope it catches on.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bravo.. People are getting tired of the same old stuff. When guns are outlawed blah blah blah. I’m behind you 1000 percent. When are we going to wake up and stop this epidemic of gun violence. And those television and movie shows where murder is fun and gum play is normal. They blame that orange haired schizophrenic guy who shot up the theater in Colorado but he was just following what one of the numerous Batman movies portrayed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s madness isn’t it? It reminds me of parents who balk at not sending peanut butter to school, and when you look them in the eye and say, “The PEANUT BUTTER could KILL little Frankie with the SEVERE ALLERGY.” they blink at you and wonder why that should matter to them when they’re being so inconvenienced.

    When did not killing people become less important than things like peanut butter and guns??

    Liked by 1 person

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