On October 1, Stephen Paddock used a modified AR-15 rifle to fatally shoot 58 people and leave 546 injured. Since then, the United States has had 35 more mass shootings. You read that right. In just over a month, we have had 35 instances of an American using a gun to murder multitudes of people. Additionally, nearly 900 Americans have died from gun violence. Yet as our country is crying out in agony, our legislators are doing nothing.
The most recent tragedy, however, hit close to home. I’ve lived in Texas almost my entire life. This is my home, and like most Texans, I take pride in it. The news that came out of Southerland Springs this Sunday was devastating. However, as I started my work week and more details about the massacre were released, I noticed something about myself. It’s something I hate, but something that I feel, and believe many others sense as well. I’ve developed an emotional callous to the gun-related tragedies inundating our nation.
The NRA’s Love Affair With the GOP
No, this doesn’t mean that I am emotionally indifferent to the bloodshed of Southerland, Las Vegas, or any other tragedy. Far from it; it merely signifies that I have become accustomed to the violence brought upon partly by immobile lawmakers. I say immobile because that is what our current Congress and many state legislatures are when it comes to gun legislation. Lawmakers, specifically Republicans, are lobbied intensely by the NRA. According to Politico, the NRA donated close to 6 million dollars to the GOP during the 2016 election cycle. Compare that to the $106,000 they gave to Democrats, and it becomes clear just who pays for the GOP’s “thoughts and prayers” rhetoric after every gun-related massacre.
The NRA has had their claws buried in our legislative process for decades. They will always be a mighty force against any common sense gun legislation – after all, they’ve been around since 1871. However, it wasn’t until 1994 that the GOP began to file in line with their lobbying agenda. You see, 1993 was the year President Clinton and Congress passed the Brady Bill. The bill made it a requirement for licensed gun dealers to run background checks on all gun sales. The following year, the NRA mobilized its members and ousted many congressional representatives that voted for the bill. Using money and numbers as a means to control, the NRA’s love affair with the GOP was born.
What can be done to defeat the gun lobby? Republicans will never defy them, at least not entirely. What’s the saying – “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you?” Right now, the NRA might as well be making Thanksgiving dinner for the GOP. The NRA’s downfall in Congress lies in electing more progressive to both chambers. We saw a glimpse of the Blue Wave in the November 7 elections. Thus, to pass gun legislation, we have to continue that momentum through the 2018 elections. Democrats have not sold their souls to the gun lobby, so our best bet is to take back both chambers of Congress and push for common sense gun legislation. However, America’s guns problem goes deeper than the NRA.
Beyond Just Legislation, America Needs to Reevaluate
Guns have become fashionably patriotic. We might as well add the word “rifle” to our national anthem and sculpt a handgun onto Mount Rushmore. Passing gun legislation will only address part of the problem. We have to tackle this false idea that guns equal patriotism. It’s an idea that I think is more common in the south than in other parts of the country. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard someone proclaim their loyalty to their weapons. Guns for many southerners are not just desires; they are necessities.
Beyond this false patriotism that guns hold for many is the belief that guns are necessary to protect one’s self from a tyrannical government – an idea that is, by any reasonable standards, ridiculous. Take into account all the measures put in place to keep prevent a civilian takeover of the government from happening. I doubt even civilian militias could organize themselves well enough to plan out a highly detailed and complicated government take over. Even if they could, how long would well-armed citizens last against the power and might of all the branches of the armed forces? Hell, how long would they last against just one branch?
Nevertheless, the “tyrannical government” idea has become mainstream in recent years, so much so that even pro-gun lobbying groups have used it as pushback to many gun control legislation.
The Answer is Not More Guns
Nothing seems to be as valid for gun advocates as the idea that more guns are the solution to gun violence. We hear this rhetoric after every mass shooting. “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
This couldn’t be further from the truth. A recent study done by Stanford University found that in the ten years following the implementation of “right to carry” laws, gun-related crime tends to rise by 15%. The study points out that in most cases, tensions tend to escalate when a gun is involved. Typically, when someone with a permit to carry gets into an altercation, the chances of a gun-related incident skyrockets.
In all the mass shooting cases studied, only once was a civilian with a gun able to effectively intervene. Compare that to the 22 instances where unarmed civilians were able to stop mass shootings by intervening, typically when the shooter was reloading. This idea that guns are the answer to gun violence is only viable in westerns.
Rember a few years back when that guy attempted to sneak a bomb onto a plane using his shoes? Now, try to remember the last time you went through TSA without having to take off your shoes. If we regulate the items that have been used to cause mayhem, why are we so against regulating weapons whose very purpose is to do just that – create chaos? The argument that “people kill people” is naive at best. Everyone understands that evil people exist. Everyone knows that these evil people will look for any way to kill, pillage, and destroy. No one is arguing against that fact. All most American want is to make it more difficult for these evil people to get ahold of weapons that will make their crimes much more deadly and destructive. We regulate what people can and can’t bring on planes. We put people through lengthy vetting processes to rent everything from moving trucks to golf carts. So why in the world are we not better regulating who has access to guns, and why do we think that the better alternative is more guns?
It’s Not About the Second Amendment
I am not against the Second Amendment. I, like the majority of Americans, do not want to take anyone’s guns away. However, I’ve been around them enough to know their power. I’ve handled enough of them to understand how destructive they can be. We must put an end to all the myths surrounding these weapons and begin to pass legislation to prevent the next Sandy Hook, Vegas, Orlando, Arura, and Southerland. There is no reason for it to be more challenging to own a car than it is to own a gun. A good start is to pass universal background legislation, ban automatic rifles, the weapon of choice for mass murderers, and combat the NRA’s deadly agenda. Every vehicle in America has to be registered; why can we not hold guns to the same standard? When are we going to stop putting the love of arms over the respect for fellow human beings?
I will never be able to fully relate to the pain that many are feeling in Southerland Springs. However, being raised in small-town Texas, I understand how difficult it can be losing someone from the community. Their wounds are just beginning to heal. Yet, if we continue to wait for “thoughts and prayers” to solve gun violence, then we might as well be placing the bullets in the next mass shooter’s rifle.