Gun Violence Is Surging In 2021. The GOP Still Refuses To Act.
Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, and Washington D.C. While 2021 is barely four months old, these cities, and many more across America, have been forced to suffer the devastating and enduring trauma of a mass shooting, ripping a hole out of the heart of families and communities that can never be filled. According to NBC News analysis of Gun Violence Archive data, “There have been 160 shootings between Jan. 1 and April 26 in which four or more people were injured or killed, compared to just over 90 during the same period in 2020.”
However, even with all the hurt and harm caused by the continuing public health epidemic of gun violence throughout the United States, the implementation of sensible gun control measures is no closer than it was after Columbine or Las Vegas or Orlando or Sandy Hook.
The delay in bringing forward gun control laws is not due to the lack of public support for the measures: voters overwhelmingly support tightening up the system. Nor is it due to lack of attempts in Congress: Democrats continue to introduce legislation that would save lives. The delay is due to members of the Republican Party deliberately stonewalling on the issue, using bad faith arguments and downright obstructionist tactics. This begs the question: How many more mass shootings and lives lost will it take for the Republican Party to find a soul?
President Joe Biden was right when he called gun violence across America “an international embarrassment.” Does the United States have such a high rate of gun violence because it is inherently a more violent nation? No. The root cause is because access to guns is so ridiculously easy. The statistics back this up, as states with higher rates of mass shootings are the ones that have the most relaxed gun safety laws. Alongside those figures, data shows that a 10% increase in gun ownership is linked with a more than 35% higher rate of mass shootings.
The Republican opposition to new gun control measures falls into two similar, often overlapping, camps. There are those who claim any attempt to introduce gun safety measures that restrict access to firearms, ammunition or accessories is a violation of Second Amendment rights, or an attempt to take all guns away. Then there are those who claim that weapons are needed, ridiculously asserting that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is for him to be confronted by a good guy with a gun. All of these are intentionally bad faith arguments, so let’s break them down and challenge them head-on for a moment.
In a country that has more guns than people, no one currently in Congress or the White House seriously believes it’s possible to confiscate all firearms, even if some countries, such as Australia, had successful buyback programs that removed many weapons from circulation. In fact, the proposed common-sense gun control measures would most likely not lower the number of guns in circulation, but would just make the system more rigorous, reducing the risk of dangerous individuals having easy access to deadly weapons.
No one is proposing anything that even comes close to infringing the Second Amendment, especially when its full text is clearly talking about “a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” A sole individual, who has no firearms training, is not a “well-regulated militia.” The controversial part of the constitution also doesn’t state what it defines as “arms” when stating “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Given it was written at a time when weapons were more primitive than they are today, it’s hard to imagine the Founding Fathers foresaw a world where someone can fire 600+ rounds per minute.
The claim of the NRA that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun is total and utter nonsense. Don’t believe me? Then consider President Ronald Reagan and his then-Press Secretary James Brady, both of whom were injured during a shooting in 1981, whilst surrounded by armed Secret Service agents, undoubtedly all good guys with guns. If some of the best trained security guards in the world can’t stop the individuals under their protection from getting hurt, why would ordinary, unprepared people think they are better qualified to handle weapons and suppress a threat? If you really want to stop a bad guy with a gun, there’s an easier way to do it than introducing more weapons into the mix. Ensure that they don’t have easy access to an assault rifle, high capacity magazines, and other gun accessories that make the likelihood of a high body count in a tragic attack higher.
Back in May 2020, on The Hardy Report podcast, I interviewed Fred Guttenberg, who tragically lost his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, in the 2018 Parkland School shooting. Since that fateful day, Guttenberg has dedicated his life to fighting to end gun violence to honor the memory of his daughter, becoming one of the most vocal advocates for gun control.
When you hear the personal stories of individuals who have to live with the pain of losing a loved one in another senseless shooting, it’s hard to not see how common-sense gun control measures are essential. Anyone with a heart, a soul, or a brain should be able to tell that the current system in America is broken, given that it results in so much suffering simply because a handful of Republicans want to engage in pointless partisanship, rather than working to create a safer society for their constituents and for everyone in America.
There hasn’t been complete inaction on gun control. We’ve seen states and cities take action where possible to implement safety measures. Very recently, Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis signed two measures into law that strengthened firearms regulations in the wake of the Boulder shooting, showing the courage Republicans have lacked on this issue. But local action alone won’t solve the problem. If neighboring areas have differing gun laws, there’s always the risk of weapons being trafficked across state lines, circumventing the regional restrictions. Bipartisan federal activity from Republicans in the Senate is needed to finish the job the House and White House started, to enact America-wide measures that reduce the gun violence death rate.
The Democratic-controlled House has made the first step. President Biden’s White House is on board, and has already signed some executive orders on gun reform in the meantime. All eyes are on the Senate, where, until the filibuster is eliminated, Republicans can block any attempt to bring meaningful gun control measures to the floor. The United States can’t keep having this debate every few days, weeks, or months.
America can’t continue in this cycle of mass shootings, Republicans only offering thoughts and prayers, nothing changing, and the media moving on until another tragic shooting occurs. Real action is needed at the federal level, not today or tomorrow, but yesterday. How many more innocent people have to die because of senseless gun violence before Republicans rediscover their spines? They must either support sensible, necessary gun safety measures, or get out of the way.