Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson penned a Washington Post opinion column on Wednesday arguing the bodies of the recent school shooting victims should be shown to convince Americans to give up their guns.
Johnson began the column with the declaration, “After the mass murder of children in Uvalde, Tex., America desperately needs to bring the true horror of mass shootings home — through pictures. We need an Emmett Till moment,” referencing the terrible 1955 hate crime which helped launch the American civil rights movement.
As Johnson noted, Till’s distraught mother had an open casket at her son’s funeral to show the world the evils of racism.
“Photographs of Till’s body, dressed in a suit but with a bloated, mutilated head and face, became an international spectacle, burned into the conscience of anyone who saw them. The images helped spark the civil rights movement,” the author wrote.
He advocated showing the country the gruesome horrors of the bodies of the 19 children and two teachers who were gunned down at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, to elicit political change.
Though he acknowledged that he lacks “the moral standing to tell a parent to accept and approve, for the greater good, the public display of photos of his or her dead child,” Johnson advised, “But something graphic is required to awaken the public to the real horror of these repeated tragedies. Robb Elementary School in Uvalde is a crime scene. If there were a case to go to trial, the prosecution would have to present publicly the shocking evidence of guilt.”
He also wanted more to live with the same horrors that the shooting’s survivors witnessed: “Why must innocent schoolchildren, for the rest of their lives, carry the vivid memories of the executions of their teachers and classmates, while federal and state lawmakers (and the adult constituents who elect them) are spared?”
Johnson continued, explaining, “Certain images do more than speak a thousand words. Some actually reveal to us what no words can adequately convey. Images have the capacity to shock the conscience into action, galvanize a population, and alter the course of history.”
Johnson expressed that enacting gun control was his desired outcome.
“With each shooting, the particular circumstances and the shooter’s character and motives vary, but the common problem running through all these events is the ease with which dangerous individuals in this country can gain access to guns and ammunition,” he wrote.
He then provided a poor analogy to justify curtailing the Second Amendment, writing, “No constitutional, legal or human right is absolute. I cherish my driver’s license, but I do not fear that I will lose it if, in reaction to a spate of DUI deaths, the state cracks down on drunken driving.” For the analogy to be congruent with gun control measures in the wake of mass shootings, the government would restrict access to alcohol or vehicles in their quest to end drunk driving.
Regardless, he wrote, “Consistent with the Second Amendment, and the freedom of a responsible adult to keep and bear arms, we can and must do more to limit the distribution of guns in the United States.”
He concluded that this isn’t happening “because the public and the politicians who purport to represent them lack a vivid understanding of the price being paid. The horror has been kept under wraps. To truly judge the trade-offs of the status quo, the death and destruction must be honesty revealed. We need a game changer. We need an Emmett Till moment.”