Gun control: America’s desperate need for change

Gun control: America’s desperate need for change
Activists for more gun control gather in front of Los Angeles City Hall for a rally prior to a vote by the Los Angeles City Council vote that would ban the possession of large capacity firearm magazines, on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Activists for more gun control gather in front of Los Angeles City Hall for a rally prior to a vote by the Los Angeles City Council vote that would ban the possession of large capacity firearm magazines, on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

As news of America’s latest mass shooting shoved its way into the national dialogue yet again this month, the nation’s elites did something rather uncharacteristic: in a rare bipartisan show of support, every mouthpiece of the media took a deep breath, a moment and sighed. Then, the world turned.

Conducting business as usual, Obama spoke to the numbness seeping through his administration and electorate. The National Rifle Association (NRA) dusted off a press release about the tragedy of a good guy not being in class to stop the bad guy. The columnists reworded their pieces about Charleston, the journalists looked for a new statistic to report and the pundits brushed up on their talking points before glaring down the camera. The world kept on turning.

That frustration should turn so readily into resignation is almost contagious. It doesn’t help that it takes a massacre of students to push us towards half-hearted conversation on gun control, a conversation that most members of the international community are amazed that we even need to have.

But do we need to have it? Do I have to tell you that 301,797 Americans have been killed by guns inside the United States since 2005, according to Politifact.com? What about 21,000 who committed suicide with a firearm last year according to the CDC, or the correlations between gun ownership and suicides on a state-by-state basis from research by Harvard? What about the 2,360 shooting victims this year in Chicagoland alone reported by the Chicago Tribune? Do you care? Does it matter? Is a conversation what we need? Can we change the conversation?

A poll on mass shootings and stricter gun laws. Tribune News Service
A poll on mass shootings and stricter gun laws. (Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service.)

Let’s take a crack at it. The NRA is, by all accounts, one of the single most powerful lobbying organizations in the world. They have been at the forefront of sinking almost every gun control measure in recent memory, including even the most modest proposed in 2012, following the Sandy Hook Massacre. They represent 4.3 million registered members (while claiming to represent the interests of 45 million), and have an annual revenue of more than $200 million — not a bad take for a nonprofit.

While they originated as a Civil War-era organization dedicated to marksmanship and gun safety training, they became radicalized in the late ’70s, when its old leadership was overthrown and a so-called “New Guard” took its iconic, absolute stance on the Second Amendment: the right to bear arms shall not be infringed, ever, period, end of story. Ever since, they’ve been a dedicated and massively influential player in the battle over gun control; not so much a contestant in the culture wars of the last 30 years as a founder of them. Today, in Washington, the NRA has a reputation for being one of the meanest in the business: With over $18 million spent on “negative advocacy” towards proponents of gun control in the 2012 election alone, they are a force to be reckoned with.

But with such outsized influence, the question remains: who does the NRA really represent? The numbers vary, but most polling shows a solid public support on certain gun control measures, such as universal background checks. According to a 2014 Quinnipiac University poll, 92 percent of Americans are onboard with background checks for all gun purchases. What’s more shocking, however, is the John Hopkins University poll showing that 74 percent of NRA members support this proposal as well. For a proposition as simple as this, the numbers really aren’t that incredible. But for the NRA, it’s a slippery slope towards judgment day: gun prohibition.

We should feel something after seeing the headlines bouncing from Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook, from Charleston to Oregon. We should be livid at the thought that the insecurities of a single organization and their most paranoid members have impeded meaningful reform for the last 30 years, to the degree that possibly hundreds — if not thousands — of people have lost loved ones to what may have been preventable deaths.

Of course, there is no proof that any line of federal gun reform legislation would have saved lives after being implemented, nor do we know with any certainty that better gun control would equate to less lives lost in the United States. But that is only because we have not done anything yet. We have cried out. We have thrown tantrums. We have cursed the sky, the heavens and our Congressmen for the lives that have been senselessly ripped from our hands by gunfire. But at the end of the day, our elected officials simply cry out. They throw tantrums. They curse the sky, the heavens and the political environment that just isn’t safe enough to make a stand without jeopardizing their careers. After so many shots fired, we should not be numb. We should be angry. If only our democracy was serving its purpose and actually making changes to prevent these massacres in the future.

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    MatthewNov 5, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    We’re going to win over the socialists. We’re tired of manipulated polls, deluded theories, and anti-American rhetoric. Guns aren’t going anywhere. We need to focus on mental health. Every mass shooter so far has been mentally unstable. I might agree with universal background checks, but you people won’t stop there. You want more and more and more. We’ve had enough. Don’t push harder, or we’ll push back.