Once again, last week, we saw the same depressingly familiar scenario play out. We had mass shootings in Colorado Springs, Colorado and San Bernardino, California in which scores of innocent people were killed and wounded by maniacs wielding military style assault weapons. As usual, the Republicans called for thoughts and prayers for the victims but didn’t want to take any action to prevent these kinds of massacres.
Overall, there have been 334 days and 351 mass shootings so far this year in the U.S. We are the only first world industrialized country in the world that has this kind of problem.
Other first world countries have implemented common sense gun safety reforms and have substantially reduced the incidence of mass shootings. For example, in Australia, after a mass shooting in 1996, laws were passed banning semi-automatic weapons and requiring a waiting period before somebody can guy a gun. After the implementation of those reforms in that country in 1996, total intentional gun deaths fell by 50% by 2006, even as Australia’s population increased approximately 14%.
President Obama and the Democrats have proposed legislation similar to what was done in Australia which would save lives by making it harder for unfit people to get guns. After the mass shootings at a Connecticut elementary school in late 2012, President Obama introduced legislation which contained an expanded background check system, a ban on military style assault weapons and a waiting period period on purchases of guns.
The reforms proposed by the Democrats are well within the mainstream and enjoy bi-partisan support. Back in 1991, conservative icon Ronald Reagan came out in favor these very same measures. Moreover, Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter both joined Reagan in his support of the Brady Bill that year. What’s more, recent polling indicates that something like 85% of the American people support an improved and expanded background check system.
Unlike most issues such as health care, the GOP actually has an alternative to the Democratic plans to reform our nation’s badly flawed gun laws. The GOP “solution” is for more people to own more guns. As GOP Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz recently said: “We don’t stop the bad guys by taking away our guns. We stop the bad guys by using our guns.”
Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, a popular stop for Republican presidential candidates, urged Liberty students to obtain their permits to carry concealed weapons. In remarks to the students shortly after the San Bernadino shootings, Falwell said: “If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now …I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them.”
People like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump who advocate that we buy even more guns should consider the following. Do we really want gun battles in the streets? When the firefight breaks out, how will you know who to shoot? What if the first person you see with a gun is another armed citizen returning fire and you shoot him? What if he sees you and shoots you? What about returning fire in a dark theater? What happens when you shoot an innocent bystander?
The GOP’s so-called “solution” to gun violence went well beyond the bounds of common sense and reason this last week when Sasse and Fischer voted with all of the other Senate Republican (but Mark Kirk) to block an amendment that would have barred those on the terrorist watch list from buying guns. This was a deeply irresponsible and reckless vote that was yet another indicator that Fischer and Sasse are soft on terrorism.
In his weekly address last Saturday, President Obama responded to this vote by correctly stating: “Right now, people on the no-fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun,” Obama said. “That is insane. If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun. And so I’m calling on Congress to close this loophole, now.”
The biggest obstacle to closing this loophole and common sense gun safety reform is the National Rifle Association (NRA). In reality, the NRA is simply the lobbying and pressure group for the lucrative gun manufacturing industry – which makes a lot of money on our country’s dysfunctional gun laws. It is not in dispute that the lion’s share of the NRA’s funds come from gun industry coffers. Just last week after the shootings in Colorado Springs and San Bernadino, the NRA urged their followers to call their member of Congress and urge them to vote no on any gun safety reform legislation.
Unfortunately, the Republican members of Nebraska’s Congressional delegation have aligned themselves with the out of state gun manufacturing industry. Fischer, Fortenberry and Smith have all received “A” ratings from the NRA. It’s too early for Sasse to be rated by the NRA but he did receive that group’s endorsement in the 2014 election. Without a doubt, Sasse will soon receive an “A” rating from the gun manufacturers as well in light of his recent vote to allow terrorist suspects to purchase military style assault weapons.
Like many Americans, I find it frustrating and discouraging that a lucrative industry that benefits financially from the mass shootings in America has managed to block reform legislation that has the overwhelming support of the voters and would actually save lives. In addition, it is obvious that Fischer, Sasse, Fortenberry and Smith rejected the views of their constituents and have chosen to prioritize the agenda of an extreme, out of state special interest group.
The only way we as a country can stop this senseless slaughter of innocent people is to elect new members of Congress. We Democrats must let the voters know that we’re supporting gun safety measures with a proven track record of success in other countries that won’t impinge upon anybody’s ability to hunt or defend themselves. I believe that once the voters realize just how extreme and uncompromising the NRA is, they will reconsider their support for the members of Congress who carry their water. Now let’s get that message out and get it done!