Five years ago twenty children and six adults were massacred in the presumed safety their Newtown, Connecticut schoolroom. Since that December 2012 disaster, the United States has experienced more than 1,500 mass shootings (defined as shootings in a public place in which four or more people––not counting gang or drug violence–– were killed). In those massacres more than 1,700 people were killed and 6,000 wounded.
The United States leads the western world in firearm homicides with 32,000 citizens losing their lives to guns every year. While America has 4.4% of the global population, Americans have 42% of the world’s civilian-owned guns.
In this week’s all-too familiar tragedy a lone gunman checked into a Las Vegas hotel room with 23 weapons (all legally purchased, but some probably illegally modified). For a yet-unknown reason, he hammered out the window of his 32nd-floor room and began what seemed to be a steady stream of automatic gunfire into a concert crowd below. As of today, 59 people were slaughtered and more than 500 wounded.
Why the hell do we continue to allow this madness? Don’t give me the Second Amendment argument. The Las Vegas shooter clearly was not part of a well-regulated militia, nor was he protecting himself, his family or other innocent people.
Americans must regain their sanity and deal with the issue of gun control. But, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s mouth piece, and Senate Majority Leader McConnell tell us it is time to mourn and pray for the victims, and it is not the time to raise the issue of gun control. Sanders told the press, “there will certainly be a time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment.”
Ok, when is the time? After the next massacre? Or, the one after that? No, the time to do something was years ago, so let’s do it now. Let’s blow past the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its followers in the chambers of the U.S. Congress, and enact meaningful gun control.
We can start with what should be easy stuff: require background checks of all potential purchasers; limit the number of guns a person can buy in any year; outlaw high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 bullets; and outlaw conversion kits that turn semi-automatic weapons into machine guns.
I cannot think of a single reason why civilians need weapons and ammunition that have only one purpose: kill as many people as fast as possible.
But, Ms. Sanders says no, “laws…won’t create or stop these type of [shootings] from happening.” But, she obviously isn’t aware of Australia’s 1996 ban on semiautomatic weapons. In the 15 years prior to that ban Australia had 13 mass shootings that resulted in fatalities. In the years since 1996 there haven’t been any. None. Zero.
I understand that my views about gun control are seen as extreme in America. In this country it is nearly impossible to even have a civil discussion in the public square about gun violence and gun-law reform, let alone get meaningful policy changes.
We are a nation in which the Republican majorities in the United States House and Senate have been co-opted by the NRA and turned into the organization’s rubber stamp. We are a nation with a president who told the NRA that the group and its members “have a true friend and champion in the White House.”
After Las Vegas, Republican after Republican stood before media microphones to say “now is not the time” for talk about political action.
I say it is the time, time for political action that starts with making sure our elected leaders fear us more than they fear the NRA. Stand up, speak out, organize, vote–––perhaps even run for office. Change will come, of that I am sure. But how many more must die before that happens?