Our nation’s political divide was on stark display this week, following yet another senseless school shooting — the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since 2018 — that stole the lives of four Michigan teenagers and traumatized hundreds of other Oxford High School students forced to “run, hide or fight” a 15-year-old attacker armed with a semi-automatic handgun his father had apparently bought for him just a few days before the deadly rampage.
In the days following the Oxford High slaughter, at least two high-profile Republican politicians — Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie and Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert — chose to post holiday card images of themselves and their families, including young children and teenagers, heavily armed with guns better suited for war than family Christmas cards.
While Republican politicians were busy trying to “trigger liberals” and pouring salt in the wounds of families who hadn’t even recovered from the shock of losing their children to a school shooter just a few days after Thanksgiving, Democrats were getting down to the business of trying to push gun control laws that might actually prevent other families from knowing the horror of having their loved one massacred at school, or their workplace, or while shopping at a mall.
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, sought unanimous support from his colleagues in order to pass the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, which would expand the timeframe to 10 days for people buying new guns or making gun transfers and would require a new background check by a licensed dealer or gun manufacturer for anyone purchasing a gun from a private individual.
The Democratic-controlled House had already passed the legislation, but the bill needed more support from Republicans in the 50-50 Senate. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, from Iowa, blocked Murphy’s request, showing Americans that it doesn’t matter how much we collectively want to quell our nation’s toxic gun problem or take steps to prevent the next mass shooting.
And if you think gun laws wouldn’t matter anyway, it’s time to think again.
In February 2020, Los Angeles Times journalists used data from The Violence Project’s excellent and thorough database on mass shootings in the U.S. to show exactly how many mass shootings, deaths and injuries may have been prevented if Republican politicians — many of whom have taken tens of thousands of dollars from the National Rifle Association, which is funded by and lobbies on behalf of gun manufacturers — were not blocking common-sense gun reform.
The Times’ study examined data behind 167 mass shootings in the U.S. that killed 1,202 people between 1966 and 2020, and found that if politicians had passed five national gun laws — a ban on straw purchases; safe storage requirements like the one recently enacted in Washington state; an assault weapons ban; mandatory background checks and red flag laws, which would give law enforcement the authority to remove guns from people who are making violent threats against others or threatening suicide — we could have avoided 87 percent (146) of those 167 mass shootings, prevented 1,100 deaths (out of 1,202 people killed in the mass shootings) and avoided nearly all of the injuries associated with the 167 mass shootings (1,922 our of 1,962 injured).
“The analysis reveals that if all of these policies had been in effect at the federal level, they would have had the potential to prevent 146 out of 167 shootings, including all but one shooting in the past five years,” the Times’ data journalists concluded.
A Pew Research study conducted in June 2021 shows a majority (53 percent) of Americans favor stricter gun laws in this country. So why are we allowing a handful of Republican senators, who haven’t represented a majority of our nation’s voters since 1996, to continually block and stymie gun control legislation in this nation?
Do any of us — regardless of our political affiliations — really think we don’t have a gun crisis in this country? According to the American Public Health Association, “gun violence is a leading cause of premature death in the U.S.” killing more than 38,000 people and causing nearly 85,000 injuries each year.
Do any of us truly believe it’s a good idea to allow anyone, at any time, access to weapons that can mow down dozens of people in just a few seconds than it is to protect our children inside our schools?
As Amnesty International has said, our federal government — primarily Republicans funded by the NRA — “has allowed gun violence to become a human rights crisis in the United States … with wide access to firearms and loose regulations.”
It is way beyond time for all of us to speak up and demand our government leaders take steps to help stop the rampant gun violence in this country. Gun control laws are not powerful enough to end Americans’ obsession with guns, but if they can prevent even one more mass shooting — and save even one more family from mourning their dead child — we must insist that our local, state and federal officials, Republicans included, do everything in their power to pass common-sense gun control.
Start by writing or calling your officials:
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell: cantwell.senate.gov/contact
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray: murray.senate.gov
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (3rd District): jhb.house.gov
State Sen. Ann Rivers (18th District): annrivers.src.wastateleg.org
State Rep. Brandon Vick (18th District): brandonvick.houserepublicans.wa.gov
State Rep. Larry Hoff (18th District): larryhoff.houserepublicans.wa.gov
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