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Left Justified: Murder: How little it takes to erase so much

January 19, 2011

By Stanley Campbell

I do not want to talk about the outrageous shooting of a moderate Democrat Congresswoman in Arizona. Seems you cannot express any concern about what may have caused the shootings (too many guns sold to crazy people who hear voices, maybe right-wing radio voices).

God forbid we demand some sort of sanity certification before buying weapons of minimal destruction. And where did he get that ammunition clip?

No, my concern focuses on reports of three dead whooping cranes found Dec. 30 just west of Albany, Ga. These rare birds died of gunshot wounds. It is a crime to shoot any animal that is endangered.

Hunters found the remains, and a local landowner reported cranes living in the area a few weeks before.

The cranes were part of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership project to reintroduce the endangered birds into the eastern United States. These three cranes were released in October 2010 with seven other first-year birds from Wisconsin. These may have been the cranes that landed in the Rockford area, and could (should) be considered our neighbors. Many of us environmentalists welcomed them when they flew by Pecatonica, and were looking forward to their spring return.

Two main migration paths exist for the whooping cranes. The flock of 200 that fly south from Wisconsin make a stop in southwest Georgia and are typically juvenile whooping cranes. Planes from Operation Migration, a nonprofit organization, have flown alongside the endangered birds to help them learn the path. The Operation Migration pilot hosted a packed program at Rock Valley College just a few months ago.

If I rant against the murder of six supposedly liberal people (one a 9-year-old girl), I will then be attacked by right-wingers who’ll complain that I am using their killings to justify my liberal beliefs. So, what if I rant against the killings of endangered species? Will I be accused of besmirching the honorable art of hunting? Will I be hunted down like the liberal animal I am?

At a gun show, I saw a bumper sticker that said, “If you take away our guns, how can we shoot liberals?” That’s a fair question, and one I wish I could answer.

Shooting innocent people seems to be the norm. It increases gun sales, and demonstrates the firepower of the latest model weapons. Shooting endangered species does nothing good, as far as I can tell. Either way, don’t complain. People have a right to get guns as easily as getting a car, and they want to make it easier.

When I see stories like the whooping cranes—or especially like Tucson—I think how little it takes to erase so much. In the case of the cranes, a number of Rockfordians are aware of the work done at the Wisconsin crane refuge. We’ve seen people in crane suits flailing their arms, looking comical, but doing real work for the survival of a species. The same goes for flying crazy contraptions to Florida or wherever. Bang, bang…hundreds of hours down the drain.

Even worse, we work against violence and hatred every day for years. Bang, bang…and gun sales go up 60 percent in Arizona, and a less dramatic rise here in Illinois. While there is great sustaining power in peace and love, they are simultaneously fragile things to be held with gentle hands.

Can I say that crazy people who shoot anything other then legal targets should not be sold guns? How many gun dealers would get angry? How many right-wing gun aficionados will write ferocious letters calling me every name in the book?

It is one thing to disagree with each other. It is another thing to disagree with someone with a gun. It tends to keep one quiet. We must find our courage to speak about our fears, and overcome them.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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