Marv Levy is heartbroken. Two of the worst recent mass shootings have come in Buffalo and near Chicago. They are Great Lakes cities that he greatly loves.
This month’s July Fourth parade shooting in Highland Park happened not far from his home in Chicago. The massacre at Tops market, in May, came a few blocks from the original home of the Buffalo Bills.
“These are places that I adore,” Levy says. “And then you have Uvalde, Texas, too. I keep reading about all these shootings every day, and I pick up the newspaper — and then slam it down. When are they going to learn? And they never do.”
The newspaper that Levy batters is the Chicago Tribune. As it happens, he wrote a passionate letter to the Tribune about guns in 2019. It didn’t run. So he tried again in 2021. It still didn’t run. So he tried a third time on May 15 — one day after the Buffalo massacre. It didn’t run then, either.
Levy, who turns 97 next month, allowed The Buffalo News to draw from his letters to the Tribune for this column. We had called to get his thoughts on gun violence knowing nothing of the unpublished letters until he happened to mention them in passing.
Here is what he wrote in May as a preamble to the resubmitted letter:
On several previous occasions, following some horrific gun violence incident, I have written to you expressing the emotions (detailed in my previous letters attached below) that I share with many other citizens in our hallowed USA. You did choose not to print them, and that, I acknowledge, is your call.
But in today’s Tribune I read about that awful shooting by some creep in Buffalo, N.Y. (where, as a former coach of the Buffalo Bills, I spent the most wonderful years of my 47-year-long career) that claimed the lives of 10 more innocent people. Why? Guns!
I am taking the liberty of resending those letters to you now in the hopes that you might decide that their content is meaningful. If some editing is necessary, I do, of course, understand that.
(Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2001)
The original letter begins this way:
It seems like every day that here in the USA we read and/or hear about another shooting. At a school; at a church; at a work place; at the train station; at a fast food place; near the corner bakery by a drive-by shooter; and at a bunch of etc’s. The problem? Guns!
I know that the “machos” at the NRA will respond by saying, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” I must admit that they are half right because it is people — WITH GUNS — who kill people.
We have 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Levy wants a 28th to undo the Second. Only once before has such a thing has happened: the 21st Amendment, in 1933, repealed the 18th Amendment, which had prohibited the sale of alcohol since 1919. (Levy remembers: In 1933, when the 21st was ratified, he was 8.)
Here is more from the original letter:
I do not believe that the answer is “stricter gun laws.” The answer, I am convinced, is getting rid of the Second Amendment, the so-called “right to bear arms.” By no means does it any longer serve the purpose intended by our Founding Fathers. Way back then, fearful of Great Britain (or other nations, too, for that matter) invading us, it was the Founding Fathers’ conviction that in order to have an armed militia ready to resist such invasions, we needed to have our civilians armed and hopefully ready. Times have evolved. We now have an armed and organized military which serves in that noble role.
It takes two-thirds of the House plus two-thirds of the Senate plus three-quarters of the states to ratify a constitutional amendment. That’s a high bar, maybe impossibly high in this case. Still, Levy points to other amendments that, though they did not repeal previous ones, did serve to right grievous wrongs – such as the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, and the 19th, which gave women the right to vote.
Back to his original letter:
It wasn’t easy invoking new amendments that gave the right to vote to women or that finally eliminated the vile evils of slavery, but we did it. And so, let’s get going on this one.
That’s how the original letter ends, but then Levy appends a poem in a postscript:
It is my understanding that you do not print poetry in your Letters To The Editor section, but I am, nevertheless, taking the liberty of including one now that I wrote and which is very pertinent to the letter above. A couple of years ago I had published a book of poetry (255 pages; 158 poems) titled IT’S TIME FOR A RHYME. It is about a variety of subjects, and here is the one I did write about the subject I addressed to you in my letter above.
The poem is eight stanzas long. This is how it ends:
Our Second Amendment grants the right to bear arms,
Regardless of how many people it harms.
But it is never too late to change some laws,
Especially those that are laden with flaws
Twenty-Seven amendments in our Constitution reside,
Many of them put there to cast previous ones aside.
And so the time has now come for Amendment Twenty-eight.
It is the righting of wrongs that makes our nation great.
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