KELLEYGRAM – Fall 2015
The United Bullets of America
December 7, 2015
As someone who knows survivors of the Tucson and Isla Verde massacres and lives blocks away from the Santa Monica massacre, I felt compelled to speak out over the horror that repeats itself weekly in America. Below are two columns – Bringing an End to the Lottery of Gun Violence in the U.S. – from October following Oregon’s Umpqua Community College shooting (the more substantive of the two) and GOP Form Letter to Victims of Mass Shootings from this weekend following the shooting in San Bernardino.
December 5, 2015
Dear Distraught Citizens of [blank],
I was deeply saddened to learn of the mass shooting in your fine community. I want you to know that the victims, their families, the brave first responders and, indeed, your entire community are in my thoughts and prayers after this senseless shooting at your town’s [school/movie theater etc.]. I assure you that I will send a nice comforting tweet to that effect, but after that I will do absolutely nothing to change the conditions that led to this latest mass shooting.
I will, however, admonish the President for politicizing this tragedy by bringing up the issue of gun control and, to the extent that the shooter comes from anything other than a White Judeo-Christian background, I will demand that the President use magic words like “Radical Islam” or whatever else might be appropriate to inflame the xenophobia my party so diligently fosters.
To the extent that I actually do something on the rare occasions that I find myself on the floor of the Congress I was elected to serve in, it will be to exploit the intense coverage of this event as cover to do something truly heinous like voting for the 60th time to repeal Obamacare or defunding Planned Parenthood (since I am part of the Bullets & Babies Pro-Life Caucus).
If you live in a jurisdiction, such as California, I will highlight the strict gun control laws in place in your state or city, purposely overlooking various loopholes in your state’s laws or the free availability of guns in border jurisdictions. I also will overlook the effectiveness of certain state and federal gun control efforts and painstakingly look into the camera and say something like “you can’t eradicate evil by legislation”.
In addition, should I be on a program discussing reasonable measures that could be taken to reduce the likelihood or extent of carnage that occurs in these incidents, I will simply declare that the Democrats really just want to take your guns and send you all to FEMA camps.
Now I can appreciate the deep sorrow and anguish you must be experiencing over the death of your loved ones. I may say something invoking the potential of their extinguished life, such as “we did not just lose our friends and loved ones today, but we lost our future”. In reality, however, the potential I am most concerned with is that of my own reelection.
Having been elected from one of many gerrymandered districts that overstates my party’s popularity, I simply cannot afford to cross the National Rifle Association and its lobbyists. I know most Americans support reasonable gun laws, but most Americans do not reside in my district or give to my campaign.
That is why I proudly support arming almost anyone, even criminals and the sale of cop killing bullets since that is what freedom is all about and shows how we as Americans value life.
So please accept my ever so sincere condolences and thank you for your inexplicable passivity in not wanting to throw the lot of us out.
Your Humble Servant,
Bringing an End to the Lottery of Gun Violence in the U.S.
In the classic American short story “The Lottery,” readers recoil with horror that a society would accept an annual ritual in which one of their members must be stoned. We sympathize with the victim as she pleads, “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right.”
Yet isn’t that what we do in America every day? Last week, we reacted in horror over the 295th mass shooting and 45th school shooting this year at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College. If that is all we do and do not do anything about it, aren’t we living “The Lottery”? Are we not saying to whomever is randomly chosen by the next gun wielding maniac and cries “this isn’t fair, this isn’t right”; “sorry, but that’s just how things are” (or as Jeb Bush so eloquently stated, “stuff happens”)?
“Stuff” does not just happen. The pro-death lobby wants us to believe that these events are inevitable and cannot be stopped, but they do not occur in other countries with any frequency (if at all). The pro-death lobby also claims that additional gun laws will not solve the problem, but the evidence is that stricter gun laws actually reduce gun deaths. This includes:
- Background checks at the time of purchase;
- Requiring a permit to purchase a gun;
- Requiring that all guns be registered;
- Requiring a gun owner to report a lost or stolen gun;
- Prohibiting anyone with a history of domestic violence from owning a gun; and
- Increasing the minimum age to purchase a gun or ammunition to 21.
Researchers found that states that combined background checks with permitting and gun registration were four times less likely to have a gun used in the commission of a crime than other states. (Note 1)
More significantly, half of the mass shootings in the U.S. involve high capacity magazines which results in 57 percent more deaths. In Australia, after a gunman used a semiautomatic rifle and a semiautomatic assault weapon to kill 35 people in Port Arthur in 1996, the country banned the weapons and implemented a buy-back program and have not had a mass shooting since that time. (Note 2)
We need these measures enacted at the federal level, because what good is a state restriction if neighboring states do not follow suit. Nonetheless, even had these measures been in place a number of these horrific shootings likely would still have occurred. Yet, both individually and collectively, the record indicates that these measures will ensure that there are fewer incidents, with fewer people being killed and less gun deaths overall.
While the pro-death lobby likes to quibble over what constitutes a school shooting or argues that gun violence was even worse a generation ago, it does not change the documented fact that these measures will save lives.
You may say that there is no way this Republican-dominated Congress is going to enact a single one of these measures, but this may be true until they begin feeling heat for their opposition. Even in this post-Citizens United age, Congress has reversed itself in the face of mass outrage.
In 2012, approximately 115,000 websites participated in the “internet blackout” in protest against the sweeping provisions of the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart the “PROTECT IP Act” (PIPA) that triggered 10 million voters to contact Congress to voice their opposition. The next day, 95 Members of Congress, including 11 of the original Senate sponsors, either withdrew their support or joined the opposition to the legislation.
I fully expect that the Republicans in Congress will block any gun legislation from passing, but if one Senator or long-serving House member loses their seat next November because of this, enough Members may think twice about blocking the legislation in the next Congress that something might actually get done.
As President Obama sadly noted,
This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.
As the news cycle for this tragedy eventually wanes, it is up to those of us fortunate enough to have been spared by this tragic lottery to take responsibility. It is not enough to say to ourselves, “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” for change will only happen if we each own this issue.
I’m using this link to call my Senators and Congressman to tell them the time is now to enact responsible gun legislation and I am going to keep calling until they do. What are you going to do?
Note 1: Francie Diep, Which Gun Laws Work?, Pacific Standard (Mar. 20, 2015); David S. Fallis, Data Indicate Drop In High-Capacity Magazines During Federal Gun Ban, Washington Post (Jan. 10, 2013); Effectiveness of the Brady Act and Background Checks, Law Center Against Gun Violence (Aug. 21, 2015); Minimum Age to Purchase & Possess Firearms Policy Summary, Law Center Against Gun Violence (Oct. 1, 2013).
Note 2: Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines Policy Summary, Law Center Against Gun Violence (May 31, 2013); John Howard, I Went After Guns. Obama Can, Too, New York Times (Jan. 16, 2013).
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