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Op-Ed: When will Republicans listen to the people about gun control

In 2019, there were more mass shootings in the United States than there are days in the year, according to data released by the FBI. The number of mass shootings, a term which has no official definition but is generally accepted to mean a shooting in which there are four or more victims not including the shooter, has been rising in the country. And every year we become more and more desensitized to the news telling us that a madman has senselessly taken another group of lives.

Why then, has there been almost no legislative response to answer for these lost lives? Why can no one agree that something must be done?  The answer is a disappointing one that we come across far too often in national politics: money. In 2019 alone, the National Rifle Association spent over $1.5 million lobbying Congress against passing gun safety laws, and that number doesn’t include the millions spent on action groups, issue-funding, propaganda, and legal cases to overturn state-wide and local gun control.

Mark Barden, co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise and father to a first-grade victim of the shooting, spoke at Tuesday’s Senate hearings on legislation aimed at closing loopholes in background checks. After the bills passed in the House, Barden told the press that he felt more hopeful than he has in a long time, “but so many people thought that the killings of his son and nearly 20 other children at Sandy Hook would be enough to come together in a non-partisan way,” writes WBUR. “Now, nearly 10 years later, the country is still having the same conversation.”

I was one of those people. I remember feeling sick to my stomach watching the news and seeing lines of tiny humans being escorted out in horror after their peers had been murdered in broad daylight. I thought that sight would be enough to transcend any power-driven or monetary motivations. But here we are, coming out of a week with two mass shootings that made headlines, one in Colorado and one in Georgia, and still with nothing but the most adamant opposition from Republicans.

It would be one thing if these opposing voices were truly standing up for the people they swore to represent, but numbers tell us they aren’t. You wouldn’t know it by watching arguments put forth by congressional Republicans, but gun control is pretty popular amongst Americans. According to an NPR poll in 2019, 83% of Americans think there should be required background checks to purchase guns in any environment, 72% are in favor of red flag laws, and 72% agree people should need a license to get a firearm. A GallUp poll in 2017 found that a staggering 93% of Americans are in favor of more gun control in general. Most of us agree that guns should be harder to get your hands on. And is that so crazy? To expect a little bit of time and paperwork be needed before buying something with the power to rip through another human being at a moment’s notice. I couldn’t get my driving permit the first time I took the test because I answered wrong about where to pull over in the event an ambulance is coming up behind me. And I should have failed, because giving me the power to drive a vehicle without making sure I have the proper knowledge could hurt someone.

To anyone who says requiring a background check or instigating a waiting period to purchase firearms is infringing on their right to bear arms, I ask this: what about my right to safely go to a movie theatre? Or a concert? Or a nightclub? Or a grocery store? Or a massage parlor? Or a school? Or a synagogue? What about the public’s right to life, liberty, and pursuing happiness? Because I would argue those victims’ rights were all violently infringed upon. I also take issue with the claim that a good guy with a gun could have stopped or alleviated any of these tragedies. Clinical professor of psychology at Georgetown, Liza Gold, told ABC News, “It’s a good slogan, but I have yet to see the evidence base for that claim. For example, in the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, there was a security guard on duty, same with at the Parkland shooting. At the Walmart shooting in Texas, it was reported that multiple civilians inside at the time of the shooting were carrying weapons. And it is not the fault of the good guys with guns that this didn’t hinder the violence, it’s because a catchy slogan is not enough to actually stop violence.

To circle back, the core issue that prevents gun control from getting anywhere is NRA dollars, but what has also happened is that the culture around this issue has been convoluted and manipulated by different actors with motivations other than serving the American people. Money isn’t supposed to do the talking in politics, but it does, and its voice is deafening.

There is hope to be had however, and there are ways to help. President Biden has announced that he would like to revive a ban on assault weapons that he championed in the 90s, and Democrats have the best chance they’ve had in a while to get some common-sense gun laws on the books, even facing a tough road in the Senate. The people need to hold their leaders accountable as well. It is truly your civic duty to tell lawmakers what you care about and to share your discontent when they make decisions you don’t like. Partisanship isn’t always bad. It drives conversation and debate, and it ensures different ideas are heard, but when one side is not using facts or public opinion and is instead hiding behind weak arguments and money, something needs to be done. Discourse is useless if one person is sticking their fingers in their ears while the NRA slips a campaign contribution in their back pocket. 

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