One of the positive follow-on effects of the pandemic was a dramatic decline in mass shootings in the US. Kids weren’t in schools. People weren’t gathering at churches or synagogues or nightclubs or music festivals or movie theaters or office buildings or malls or anywhere else. So there were few masses present anywhere for disgruntled white men to take aim at.
Yes, suicide attempts were up, and domestic and intimate partner violence has been as well, and all of those things are FAR more deadly when firearms are present. And cops are still shooting Black and brown folks for little or no reason.
But at least we had a brief respite from the unrelenting horror of large numbers of people getting shot by (largely) white men who decided to take out their bullshit grievances on innocent bystanders.
Here’s the thing. The US is never going to be Canada or New Zealand or western Europe. We are, to quote the Ben Franklin character from the musical 1776: “Rougher, simpler; more violent, more enterprising; less refined.”
We have a different national character, different founding stories and myths, different canonical documents. (For a rigorous yet accessible explanation of all this, see Seymour Martin Lipset’s masterful work of comparative politics, Continental Divide.)
But this senseless mass death cannot continue.
And we know what works to reduce gun violence.
There are a variety of sensible gun safety protections that need to be enacted at the FEDERAL level. The Federal Assault Weapons ban that was originally signed as one of the few good parts of Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill. Background checks, and closing the private sale loophole. Limits on high capacity magazines and alterations like bump stocks that allow shooters to fire additional shots from their guns more rapidly. Taking guns from domestic abusers, and removing the “boyfriend” loophole. Requiring responsible gun storage. Limiting the number of guns one can purchase in a given period of time. Red flag laws, which also protect people from themselves.
We can also provide more resources for mental health interventions (which relates to the movement to reduce funding to police and direct those resources elsewhere). We can believe women who report domestic or intimate partner violence and demand that law enforcement take action rather than just shrugging reports off with “he said/she said – who can tell?” nonchalance.
We can work to elect candidates who support all of the above.
We’re never going to convince all the gun owners in the US to beat their swords into plowshares. But we shouldn’t have to put up with this madness, either, particularly when we’re still far from out of the woods on a pandemic that has killed more than 565,000 of our fellow Americans over the past year and a half.
Graphic found at Moms Demand Action. And if you care about this issue, you need to go visit their site, find your local chapter – they’re everywhere – and get involved.
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