The Republican Party has turned America into a killing field.
Republicans have allowed guns to proliferate while weakening barriers to ownership, lowering the age at which guns can be purchased, and eliminating laws governing how, when, and where guns can be carried.
They did it in part with the help of Supreme Court conservatives who supported a corrupt and bastardized interpretation of the Second Amendment.
But Republicans have also done it by fostering fear and paranoia. They tell people that criminals are coming to threaten you, immigrants are coming to threaten you, a race war (or race replacement) is coming to threaten you, and the government itself might one day come to threatening you.
The only defense you have against the threat is to be armed.
If you buy into that line of thinking, owning a gun is not only logical but prudent. It’s like living in a flood plain and buying flood insurance. Of course you should.
The propaganda has been incredibly, insidiously persuasive. As Vox pointed out last year, “Americans make up less than 5% of the world’s population, yet they own about 45% of all firearms owned by individuals globally,” according to 2018 data. .
But once you accept the dogma that a personal arsenal is your last line of defense against an advancing threat, no tragedy can persuade you to abandon that idea, not even the slaughter of children and their teachers in their classroom.
Even if you think shootings like the one in Texas are horrible, you see yourself and your interests as detached from them. You didn’t kill. Your guns are kept safe, maybe even locked up. You are a responsible gun owner. The person who killed is crazy.
Republicans take this logic to Congress. They offer thoughts and prayers but resist reform. They offer the same dumb advice: to counter armed bad guys, we need more armed good guys. They seem to be imagining an old-school western where gunmen fight and the ranger still kills the desperado.
They want to arm teachers, even though most don’t want to be armed. Personally, I can’t imagine any of my elementary school teachers with a gun in the classroom trying to fend off a gunman. That’s not why they signed up.
And so the Republicans keep the country trapped in a state of intransigence, ricocheting from one tragedy to another. This is neither normal nor necessary and unavoidable.
No other country has the level of American carnage, but no other country has American Republicans.
Mass shootings are just the tip of the iceberg.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 45,000 people died from gun-related episodes in 2020, the most recorded in this country and a 15% increase from the previous year. Just over half, 54%, were the result of suicide and 43% were the result of homicide.
And yet, we are doing nothing to restrict access to guns, or more accurately, Republicans are not accepting any new restrictions. It’s not a two-sided issue. The lion’s share of resistance to passing federal gun safety laws falls squarely on Republicans. We must call a fig a fig and a trough a trough.
Beginning to embrace gun safety would not immediately end all gun violence in this country, but it could begin to reduce the death toll, reduce the amount of blood flowing in the streets.
The Republicans have no intention of helping in this regard. Too often, they seem to see carnage as a guarantee – as if they could use the consistency and repetition of these killings to scuttle efforts to stop future killings. Some Republicans may even expect Americans to get used to inaction, to get used to murdering children, to numb themselves to relentless death and lack of action.
So we go through the cycle again – the laments of loved ones, the sadness of a country. We call out the names of the victims and learn a bit more about their lives before they were shot. Maybe this one liked ice cream or that one liked dressing up as a princess. We ask: If not now, when? If not for that, then for what? We listen to Democrats condemn and Republicans swerve.
And before we can fully mourn one massacre, another occurs. Just over a week ago, a white supremacist terrorist shot and killed 13 people at a Buffalo grocery store. In fact, according to Gun Violence Archive, there were 611 mass shootings in the United States in 2020. That’s not just more than one a day; it’s approaching two a day. (Records define a mass shooting as one in which four or more people were shot or killed, not including the shooter.)
There is no great mystery as to why we are where we are in this country when it comes to gun violence. We should not – and must not – pretend that this issue is complicated. It’s not.
We are not addressing our insane gun culture and the havoc it causes because the Republican Party refuses to cooperate. There’s death all around us, but for too many Republicans it’s a sad inconvenience rather than an impetus to action.