Five years since Sandy Hook. 1 and a half year since Orlando. 2 and a half months since the deadliest mass shooting in the United States, Las Vegas. 1 month since 26 churchgoers lost their lives in Texas. It would be putting it mildly to say that the US has a gun problem.
Since the Sandy Hook massacre, there have been five more mass shootings in which at least a dozen people were killed, and 15 other attacks in which at least four people died — for a total of 273 killed and 645 wounded, nearly all with legally obtained semiautomatic weapons. On average, 42 people are killed by guns (excluding suicides) and 86 are wounded per day. On average, there is more than one mass shooting (defined as an incident where 4 or more people are shot) per day.
What are the standard responses from Republican politicians and Second Amendment advocates after a mass shooting? “This is not the right time to talk about this,” while offering their thoughts and prayers to the dead and wounded. Even the slaughter of 20 innocent first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut was not enough for Congress to act and pass legislation to control the sales of guns to people who want to harm others.
America’s gun violence problem is unlike any other country in the world. Americans have 4.4% of the world’s population, yet they own almost half of the civilian-produced guns in the world. Thus, they have 6x the number of firearm homicides as compared to their neighbor, Canada, and 16x as compared to Germany. It just does not make sense to have these many guns in the population, but the myth of a “good guy with a gun defeating the bad guy with a gun” continues to persist. Usually, a civilian with a gun can make an active shooter situation worse.
The access to guns also increases the risk of suicides. People with mental health problems should be seeking treatment, not taking their lives. It is much easier to kill oneself with a gun, rather than with a knife or poison. It is instant. Most of the gun deaths in the US come from suicide. This can be attributed to the abysmal treatment for mental health and the reckless easy access to guns. Short waiting periods for purchasing a firearm makes it unlikely that a person will change their mind. All together, almost 33,000 people lose their lives to guns per year.
It isn’t fair to attribute the entire blame of mass shootings to the easy access to firearms. Mental health does have a part to play. Then why does the US not have adequate treatment for it? Why does the NRA and Republicans in Congress fight legislation that could help limit the access to assault-style weapons for mentally ill people?
Why do they refuse to act? It’s the power of the almighty gun lobby, the National Rifles Association (NRA). They oppose any common sense legislation that could help prevent mass shootings and save lives. They pretend to argue for the cause of “2nd Amendment rights”, while all the while protecting the profits of gun manufacturers. There is bipartisan support for moves to keep the citizenry safe. They are thwarting the will of the American people, who want to be safe in playgrounds, schools, movie theatres, and concerts.
- 89% of Republicans and 89% of Democrats favor background checks that would prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns.
- 85% of Democrats and 82% of Republicans are in favor of barring gun purchases for people on no-fly or terrorist watch lists. (The argument here is if you’re not trusted enough to fly, then you shouldn’t own a gun. Yet, thanks to the NRA, even a provision for this hasn’t passed).
- 90% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans favor background checks for private sales and gun shows.
Getting campaign funds from their NRA donors is more important for some Republican members of Congress than keeping their constituents safe. It is a shame that the country continues to endure mass shooting after mass shooting without a solution to this endemic problem.
The House of Representatives passed a bill in the first week of December that would make the problem worse. While improving the system of background checks and mental health reporting, the bill allows people to carry guns across state lines. States with stricter gun laws, like California and New York, would have to now account for people coming from other states with more lenient laws, undermining each states’ rights. The good news is that this bill would need 60 votes in the Senate and 8 Democrats would need to join all the other Republicans, so likelihood of it becoming law is slim.
The House has still not banned bump stocks, the mechanism used by the Las Vegas shooter that allowed him to turn his weapon into a machine-gun type weapon. If Congress cannot seek unanimity on a bill that would ban a device that allowed a shooter to wound over 600 people in 10-15 minutes, then what is even the point of those representatives in Washington?
What’s clear is that Congress refuses to act. And if they act, they go in the other direction. Gun control activists don’t want to ban all guns; they just want to restrict sales to people who do not deserve to own one – either criminals or mentally ill people. As long as the NRA continues to oppose these efforts, there will not be a change in gun laws, no matter how many people die in each mass shooting. “Thoughts and prayers” are no longer enough, Republicans. To prove you actually care, act. And act in favor of the American people, not your donors.
- Vox, Oct 2nd, 2017: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/2/16399418/us-gun-violence-statistics-maps-charts
- CNN, Nov 6th, 2017: http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/02/politics/bipartisan-gun-control-policies-majorities/index.html
- Vox, Dec 11th, 2017: