“It’s rare to go one day without a mass shooting in America.”
That’s how U.S. data and visual reporter for The Guardian, Alvin Chang, began a recent visual database of American gun violence.
According to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive (GVA), an exhaustive database intended “to provide free online public access to accurate information about gun-related violence in the United States,” in the past seven years, the United States has suffered more than one mass shooting a day.
While there is no textbook definition of a “mass shooting,” the GVA tracks “incidents in which at least four people are shot or killed, not including the shooter.”
In the 149 days since the beginning of 2021, the United States has fallen victim to 237 mass shootings.
There is no question this is tragic.
But the real tragedy lies in the fact that mass shootings have become so commonplace in America, we don’t even dedicate much media coverage to them anymore.
They’ve become, like wearing face masks, just another feature of life in America.
Yet there is no vaccine against gun violence.
Whereas COVID-19 infection rates in the United States continue to decline, mass shootings show no sign of abating.
Whereas the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an authority on public health, until three years ago the Dickey Amendment prevented it from conducting research that might in any way be construed as “advocating or promoting gun control.”
Almost 20,000 people in this country were killed from gun violence last year—more than any other in at least two decades.
23 million guns were sold in the United States in 2020–a 64% increase.
Last month, President Joe Biden delivered a White House Rose Garden announcement in which he explained signing several executive orders:
- Directing the Justice Department (DOJ) to ratchet up regulations on sales of “ghost guns,” untraceable firearms that can be assembled from kits in about half an hour;
- Directing the DOJ to within 60 days design a proposal for regulating stabilizing braces that functionally convert pistols to short-barreled rifles;
- Directing courts and local law enforcement agencies to enforce “red-flag laws” intended to confiscate firearms from at-risk individuals;
- Directing federal agencies to allocate resources for community violence intervention programs;
- Nominating an official to head the federal agency responsible for cracking down on illegal gun trafficking.
“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic and it’s an international embarrassment.”
Adding that about 316 people are shot in America every day and 106 die, “hitting Black and brown communities the hardest,” Biden explained:
“Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the second amendment. They’re phony arguments, suggesting that these are second amendment rights at stake, what we’re talking about. But no amendment to the constitution is absolute. You can’t shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded movie theatre and call it freedom of speech.”
To that end, Biden called on Congress–again–to finally accomplish what ultra-partisan intransigence has been unable: meaningful gun control legislation, specifically re-instating the assault weapons ban former president George W. Bush allowed to lapse in 2003.
Never an easy task, it proves even more challenging today with 60 votes needed in the Senate to circumvent a Republican filibuster.
Referring to congressional lawmakers, the president said:
“They can do it right now. They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers, members of Congress, but they have passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence. This is not a partisan issue among the American people. This is a view by the American people as an American issue. And I’m willing to work with anyone to get these done. And it’s long past time that we act.”
This is nearly identical to the message he delivered the previous month, after seven mass shootings in a week, when Biden urged Congress to pass two bills that have already passed the House of Representatives—one to expand background checks, another to renew prohibitions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines:
“This is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue…I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act.”
Biden also expressed his ultimate wish: erasing gun manufacturer liability protections.
“This is the only outfit that is exempt from being sued. If I get one thing on my list—(If) the Lord came down and said, ‘Joe, you get one of these’—give me that one. Most people don’t realize, the only industry in America, billion-dollar industry, that can’t be sued, exempt from being sued, are gun manufacturers.”
Executive orders are not laws; they’re presidential fiats intended to move along policies stalled in Congress.
Permanent legislation must come from Capitol Hill.
But if we think this is finally Republicans’ “come- to-Jesus moment,” we need to remember it is the party that wants to make it harder to vote but easier to obtain guns.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, attacking his colleague Durbin’s “public health crisis” label, mocked:
“Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders.”
The sad thing is, Cruz may be right.
Even with the Democrats in the majority, the Senate still has the anachronistic, racist filibuster albatross hanging around its neck.
As Axios points out:
“Any gun control legislation, including the two background check bills passed by the House last week, would need 60 votes to pass in the 50–50 Senate. Biden did not make reference to eliminating the filibuster, which progressives have called on Senate Democrats to do.”
Everyone of the top-20 recipients of gun rights lobby money is a Republican.
Of the $9,119,640 the NRA gave in political contributions, $743,771 went to Republicans while $8,359,761 went to Conservatives.
98% of total so-called “gun rights” industry lobbying money went to Republicans.
With a system of unlimited political bribery in full career as never before, why would we suddenly expect the Republican party (supposedly “pro-life”) to choose people and ethics over this much free money?
If common sense doesn’t seem to be able to break a decade of gridlock over gun violence; if mounting deaths of children in school, patrons of movie theaters, concerts, houses of worship, and grocery stores isn’t working, maybe it’s time to take away the shield behind which the gun lobby and the politicians they own hide.
Maybe it’s time to repeal the Second Amendment:
“A well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
The canard that “our founders wanted us to have guns to be able to defend ourselves from a tyrannical government” is something the gun lobby picked up and ran with decades ago.
It is not in the Constitution.
It’s a myth.
The individual gun ownership decision came from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 with the Heller vs. District of Columbia case.
Like the filibuster, 911, the Electoral College, the prison industrial complex, and funding public education through property taxes, the sacrosanct Second Amendment, excerpts of which many love to cite yet few have actually read, needs to go.
With the tide turning in America after the November election, we have causes for optimism.
No Democrats are advocating taking people’s guns.
All we’re calling for is keeping weapons of war out of civilians’ hands.
Most responsible gun owners favor this stance.
No more “thoughts and prayers.”
Call your representatives: 202–224–3121.
Or is it too late?
Is dwindling coverage a sign we’ve become inured to the bloodshed?
Or has the chance of being gunned down in a mass shooting simply become the cost of living in America?
Image credit: Colin Lloyd via Unsplash