By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
You would think after the unimaginable carnage at a country music concert in Las Vegas, that would have been enough, at least to ban bump stocks which Republicans signaled they were receptive to. Then nothing. Well not really nothing: instead of banning bump stocks, Congressional Republicans adopted Conceal Carry Reciprocity, which would essentially negate every state’s gun control regulations (so much for sacred State’s Rights). Imagine someone whipping out a concealed semi-automatic handgun in the rush hour crowd at Penn Station. Even with the heavily armed national guardsmen who patrol, 50 could be dead in the spate of seconds before anyone even realized what was happening. Now imagine another 10 people whipping out their concealed carry guns and firing in all directions.
You would think after an ex-Air Force gunman, court-martialed for domestic violence, killed 26 people at a smalltown Texas church, there would have been legislation to beef up background checks, which the vast majority of Americans, including NRA members and Republicans support. Dream on.
You would think that after Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Congress would have reauthorized the assault weapons ban that George W. Bush allowed to expire in 2006, or enacted universal background checks. Or, given that Republicans and the NRA always fall-back to mental illness, not the easy access and availability of semi-automatic high-capacity guns as the cause of massive carnage, to stiffen restrictions against those with mental illness, including veterans with PTSD, to acquire guns. Oh yes, Obama actually did that, only to have Donald Trump and Senator Charles Grassley (who ironically reflexively called for more controls to prevent mentally ill from acquiring guns), to rescind the regulation. Or after the San Bernardino terror shooting, Congress would have adopted the “No Fly, No Buy” rule. Or after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot, would have limited the capacity of ammo clips.
An ongoing Washington Post analysis has found that more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. After each, there is a spurt of “thoughts and prayers” and then nothing.
Seventeen school shootings, 34 mass shootings, 2008 deaths from gun violence. That’s just the body count for the first 7 weeks of 2018.
As a New York Times editorial noted, “The journal Pediatrics reported last June that gunfire, each week, kills an average of 25 children ages 17 and under. A 2016 study in The American Journal of Medicine calculated that among two dozen of the world’s wealthiest nations, this country alone accounted for 91 percent of firearms deaths among children 14 and under.
Instead, the only “solution” Congress seems to be interested in is mandating Conceal Carry Reciprocity nationwide, to “harden” schools and allow (even require) teachers to carry guns, effectively deputizing them as soldiers in this war-of-choice. (If that is the case, teachers should get battlefield pay.) The only response has been to do the NRA’s bidding: more guns.
But now, perhaps after this latest school shooting, something is different. Because the survivors are 17 and 18 year olds – a cohort of 3.9 million – who will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election if not the 2018 midterms. They know how to marshal the power of social media and organize an ongoing campaign; they are articulate, passionate, and have the energy to keep this going. And they are still idealistic enough to think they can actually force politicians to do their will, naively unaware or underestimating the political perils.
It is reminiscent, in fact, of the anti-Vietnam youth movement of the 1960s. By the time it ended, 58,200 Americans had lost their lives in a decade of fighting a war predicated on politically expedient lies.
But this is war on the homefront. This is a public health scourge in our neighborhoods: guns kill 33,000 Americans a year, the equivalent of a 9/11 each month and injure another 100,000 each year whose lives, like the 14 injured Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. will be forever altered – sports scholarships lost, college savings lost, career track altered. Since Sept. 11, 2001, 95 Americans have been murdered on US soil by terrorists (every one an American citizen or legal resident), but in that same timeframe, guns killed 561,000.
Will this stab at activism be different?
My question is how soon will they become frustrated and beat down by the political song-and-dance? Or will they be snuckered by promises, as hollow as the bullets that the NRA defends that can pierce police protective vests?
Indeed, after traveling by bus for six hours to plead their case at the State House in Tallahassee, 100 of the Parkland students were promptly shut down by a swift 2 to 1 vote to table any discussion of banning assault weapons.
Trump, who made a show of visiting two victims in the hospital and praising first responders (not heroic teachers who now as part of their duties have to make themselves human shields, like the three murdered in Parkland), said he might “consider” a bipartisan bill improving background checks, a statement so remarkable, it warranted front-page headlines.
He is talking about the Cronyn bill, which came out of the Texas massacre, but it only requires the military to do what they were legally supposed to have done: notifying the federal database of military who committed domestic violence and shouldn’t be able to buy a gun anyway. He made a show of ordering the Department of Justice to “examine” the possibility of new regulations banning bump stocks or any device that turns a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun. But automatic weapons are already illegal for civilian use. And heaven knows how long it will take Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come up with such regulations. Meantime, Congress is off the hook from actually doing anything that resembles even a modest stab at gun control. No slippery slope there.
And even in his phrasing, “I will be open to a bipartisan bill” to improve background checks sounds like the same bullshit he used when he betrayed Dreamers.
The reality behind his bullshit is that Trump’s budget would cut 19% from funding for background checks, and thanks to George W Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft, background checks have to be completed within just three days, and the records destroyed (that’s how the Charleston massacre was able to get his gun).
Over and over, Trump has pledged his fealty to the NRA, which apart and in concert with the Russians, did more to send him to the Oval Office than anyone or anything – $30 million in spending, split between pro-Trump and anti-Clinton campaigns. And even now, it compromises the bulk of his precious, unshakeable “base.”
In his State of the Union, he said, “My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities,” which sounded as if he might finally call for action to restrain the scourge of gun violence, especially after the two most monstrous massacres in history. Instead, his next line was, “We are totally defending our Second Amendment…”
The reality is, it is easier to buy an assault rifle than buy alcohol or access reproductive health care or register to vote; it is easier to get a gun license than a drivers license, to get a gun than register a car; there are more gun stores than grocery stores, McDonalds and Starbucks combined.
Young people, don’t be played! Here’s what should constitute gun reform:
- Restore the ban on assault weapons; limit the capacity of ammunition clips; ban bump stocks.
- Require universal background checks including gun shows and private sales and online sales; remove the artificial limit in time for the check to be completed or increase the waiting period beyond 3 day.
- Require training and licensing and a national database of gun registration; and renewal program for license and registration (just as for a car).
- Bar felons, domestic abusers, those diagnosed mentally ill, anyone under the age of 21 from buying a gun, and those on a terror watch list (“No Fly, No Buy”)
- Tax purchases of guns and ammunition, the money going into a victims fund to pay compensation to survivors and for health care.
- Require gun owners to take out liability insurance, just as automobile insurance.
- Overturn Stand Your Ground laws; defeat Conceal Carry Reciprocity.
- Make parents responsible for safe storage of guns; liable and subject to manslaughter prosecution if their children use guns to kill.
- Treat gun violence as public health epidemic; end gag order on CDC to research gun violence and recommend protections.
Emma Gonzalez, one of the Parkland school survivors, properly called out the “bullshit.”
“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS,” she said in an impassioned and on-target speech. “Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS.
“They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.
“If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.”(Crowd chants) “Throw them out.” (Listen to her powerful speech)
Ironically, this new student movement may have a dreaded “unintended consequence” for Republicans: if the NRA lackeys are swept out of office in favor of politicians who enact true gun reform, that might also result in campaign finance reform, overturning Citizens United and requiring Disclosure of who is supplying money, finally breaking the shackles the NRA (which may well have funneled Russian money in the $55 million it spent in the 2016 campaign, including $30 million spent to elect Trump) has on lawmakers.
That would be killing two birds with one stone, not an AR15.
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