Protecting Lives Should Not Be A Partisan Issue But Nevertheless, The GOP Persists

Months after the deadliest mass shooting in America’s history, bump stocks and your Senator’s vote are still up for sale.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks at the leadership forum at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention Friday, April 25, 2014 — (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Updated December 6: The House just passed “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,” which allows concealed carry license holders to conceal guns in other states

On November 5th, during the Sunday service at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a man walked into the church with a semi-automatic rifle and fired upon the unsuspecting parishioners.

At least 26 people are dead and another 20 more are wounded in what has become the worst mass shooting in the state’s history. The ages of the victims range from 17 months to 77 years old, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child. In a small town of just 643 citizens, about 4% of their population was killed by a single man in a matter of minutes.

Following the attack, President Trump, in a press conference in Tokyo, stated:

Who would ever think a thing like this could happen?

This remark comes just mere weeks after the worst mass shooting in modern United States history, leaving 58 dead and over 500 injured when a lone gunman opened fire on a crowd of people at a concert in Las Vegas.

It did not take long for government officials to offer up their condolences. Not surprising, their thoughts and prayers did little to soothe an outraged and heartbroken country. Instead, they ring hollow and empty yet again as no steps are made in preventing future incidents from occurring.

How many more people have to be killed before they are willing to even broach the subject of gun control?

Thoughts And Prayers Ring Hollow

Statistics show that in America, there is a 1 in 370 chance that you will be shot to death. Further, you are more likely to be killed in a mass shooting in America then be killed by a terrorist.

Top Republican representatives in both the Senate and the House are always quick to express their sympathies and just as quickly will balk at the first mention of gun reform. Their reluctance is easy to understand when some light is shed onto the millions of dollars of funding in donations from the National Rifle Association, millions that are helping mass shootings continue to happen.

To even begin to understand the issue of gun violence and mass murder in this country, we need to understand the mechanics and moving parts behind it. Mass murders are becoming the norm with increased frequency over the past couple of decades and there’s no slowing down in sight. It is defined by the FBI as “a number of murders (four or more) occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders.”

What makes mass murders so easy to commit in America?

Assault Rifles As Weapons Of Mass Destruction

“Assault weapons” itself is an umbrella term, a more general and all-encompassing description of the actual guns in the middle of our national discussion: automatic and semi-automatic assault rifles.

The assault rifle was created to fire multiple shots in rapid succession and were first developed back in World War II. Adolf Hitler himself is frequently credited as the one to coin the phrase. The Nazi’s new invention was named “Sturmgewehr,” which translates to “assault rifle.”

A fully automatic assault rifle, like the military’s standard M16 machine gun, can fire off more than one round in rapid succession when the trigger is engaged. In the most straightforward, simplest terms: it can shoot a large amount of bullets, fast.

If the trigger is depressed and there are cartridges in the feed system, an automatic firearm will keep firing. It is designed to empty the cartridge clip, eject it, then continue on this process with the next cartridge in line until the magazine is completely empty.

In contrast, a semi-automatic firearm is one that fires a single round when its trigger is pressed. A well-known example is the AR-15. This gun is the semi-automatic version of the rifle used by the United States military, the M16. With roughly 5 million AR-15’s sold legally throughout the years, it is a very popular option amongst civilians.

The AR-15 is powerful while being user-friendly with a limited recoil, which allows for increased accuracy. It also has the capacity to hold numerous clips, each with 10 rounds or more. AR-15’s are extremely popular because they are very easy to adapt and modify. From barrels, caliber, ammunition, length, weight, and so on, it can be modified to fit individual needs. Its adjustability has made it useful for home defense, hunters, competitors, and law enforcement alike.

Unfortunately, the AR-15 has also been utilized by mass murderers.

This rifle and other similar semi-automatic models were used as the murder weapons in the following mass shootings:

Additionally, while semi-automatic rifles are designed to carry many cartridges and are a powerful firearm, they do not fire rounds at the quick rate that a fully automatic can.

A device known as a “bump-fire stock” gained the country’s attention as the Las Vegas shooter was found to be using the modification on his semi-automatic AR-15. The bump-stock is a manual modification that replaces the rifle’s original stock, the part of the rifle that rests against the user’s shoulder when aiming and firing. This transformation allows a semi-automatic rifle to fire at the same rate as an automatic. The replacement stock achieves this by allowing the weapon the freedom to move rapidly back and forth.

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To put bump stocks and their capabilities into perspective, a fully automatic weapon can average about 98 rounds in 7 seconds. The attacker in the Orlando Pulse shooting carried a semi-automatic AR-15 and fired off about 24 rounds in 9 seconds. Last month, in Las Vegas, with his AR-15’s modified with a bump stock, the shooter fired off 90 rounds in 10 seconds total. (NY Times data)

While technically still legal, fully automatic rifles are a challenge to purchase and own, yet not entirely impossible. The Firearms Protection Act was passed under President Reagan in 1986 and prohibited the manufacture of new automatic rifles and machine guns going forward. However, firearms that were owned before the bill are still considered legal, so long as they are registered properly, and all weapons manufactured before 1986 are still able to be bought and sold, albeit extremely difficult for civilians to do so.

Semi-automatic rifles are legal and a popular firearm amongst gun owners. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban signed by President Clinton in 1994, banned semi-automatic firearms for civilian use. However, the ban had a sunset provision and expired ten years later on September 13, 2004, and has yet to be reinstated in any capacity.

Bump stocks are legal in 49 states and available for purchase by anyone and have the ability to put the firing power of a machine gun into civilian hands.

In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, The National Rifle Association released a statement saying that there should be more regulations placed upon bump stocks. “The N.R.A. believes that devices designed to allow semiautomatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”

Massachusetts stands alone as the first and only state to ban bump stocks. The legislation was criticized as a “knee-jerk reaction” to the Las Vegas shooting, but the ban had overwhelming support and was passed by legislators and signed into law in October.

Despite 58 dead and 500 additionally wounded, bump stock sales resumed without any change or regulations proposed just weeks after the shooting. Now, in the days after the Texas shooting, the public outcry and call for gun reform seems to fall on deaf ears as President Trump vehemently denies that there is an issue.

Instead, Trump blames mental health as the sole problem here. The lone wolf, mentally ill gunman… a story we know well and have heard before.

Thankfully, there are some politicians up to the task. After the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017. This proposed bill would enact a ban on the sale, transfer, and manufacture of semi-automatic weapons. The ban is supported by numerous Democratic senators.

We’re introducing an updated Assault Weapons Ban for one reason: so that after every mass shooting with a military-style assault weapon, the American people will know that a tool to reduce these massacres is sitting in the Senate, ready for debate and a vote.” — Diane Feinstein

Thoughts and prayers have been said ad nauseam, the drug store card phrase offering up condolences for the loved ones of the victims. Thoughts and prayers are a way to compartmentalize mass murder. A way to publicly demonstrate that, sure, you care. Just not enough to do anything about it to change the course of our future.

Gun reform is a tough discussion. Doing something seems like too much work, a dirty fight not worth fighting. It is a fight made even more difficult when our elected officials are bought by the N.R.A. They are not in a position to bite the hand that feeds them.

Analysis | Have your representatives in Congress received donations from the NRA?

Your prayers do not change policy. Your thoughts do not console grieving family members. To continue to try to pray the problem away will result in more mass shootings.

It’s time to grow up as a nation and have an adult conversation about the real issues plaguing our country. Mass murder is an unnecessary crisis and has been for decades.

It’s an explosive topic, but one we as a country need to be mature enough to have a civil discussion about. We owe that much to the dead. American lives are not a partisan issue. It is important to keep the conversation moving forward towards real changes in policy. To not do so would be a disservice to those who lost their lives.

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