Opinion: Gunning down America

On the Monday after two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, several dozen people gathered in Union Square to both mourn the several dozen victims as well as to criticize the ease of buying guns in America. Organized by the group RefuseFascism.org, many at the rally were critical of politicians who blamed mental illness as the cause of the massacres rather than the availability of military-style guns. (Photo by Jefferson Siegel)

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Last week I wrote about gun violence and mass murder. My column was a warning entitled “It could happen anywhere.”

Two days later, it did.

This time a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas. It was one of the worst massacres in U.S. history, leaving 20 dead and dozens more seriously wounded. The weapon of choice again was an assault weapon. And then just hours later a gunman in Dayton, Ohio opened fire on innocent bystanders killing nine with an assault weapon. It took 30 seconds. That’s the killing power of assault weapons.

Thirty-one dead and scores wounded in 12 hours. They won’t be the last.

In El Paso, the assailant was fueled by hatred of Hispanics and Mexicans who largely inhabit the city of El Paso. He was said to be enraged by what he referred to as the “invasion” of Hispanic immigrants. He used the very same language that we have heard this president use over and over again. “Invasion.”

President Donald Trump has been admonished repeatedly to tone down his anti-immigrant rhetoric and to unequivocally condemn the white supremacist ideology. Until now, he did not. The fear was that impressionable or sick minds would latch on to the president’s words and act on them in a perverted attempt to defend the nation from the “invaders” who President Trump repeatedly said were “rapists and criminals.”

Last Saturday, that fear was realized as the young assailant, who no doubt heard Donald Trump’s words as a call to action, picked up his assault weapon and traveled hundreds of miles to El Paso in order to kill the Hispanic “invaders.”

It’s not hard to connect the dots. Hateful, xenophobic words with violent imagery invoked by the president and the easy availability of battlefield weapons designed to kill enemy combatants with deadly efficiency. The perfect storm. The depraved indifference of the racist shooter and an irresponsible president who tosses incendiary language around like hand grenades. The result is horrific.

The same president who refuses to do anything to ban these destructive military weapons or regulate the 300 million other firearms in circulation.

And let’s not forget the craven members of Congress who cannot bring themselves to rebuke Trump’s inciteful language who so fear the political clout of the NRA that time and again, they refuse to pass any laws to interfere with the gun industry’s ability to sell millions more guns every year. Will it be any different now? How much more blood needs to be spilled before Congress will act?

There are even the craziest of the crazy who deny that these slaughters are real. The people who called the survivors of the high school shooting in Parkland Florida “fake crisis actors.” And even some who assert that the massacre of 20 toddlers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown Connecticut never happened. They say it’s just a made up conspiracy against gun owners.

Even as the events of the weekend atrocities came into clearer focus, the president still could not bring himself to propose a ban on assault weapons. However, on Monday morning, he called for an end to racism and bigotry as an underlying causes of violence. With all due respect, the best place for him to start would be with his tweets.

2 thoughts on “Opinion: Gunning down America

  1. The problem with gun control is that the poitical divisiveness that divides our Nation has equally polarized the debate with both sides championing partial solutions as cure-all solutions. Before a real cure can be found, the partisan name calling has to stop.

    Yes. It is popular to blame Trump. But that doesn’t explain the Dayton shooter who killed 9 people less than 24 hours after El Paso. He was a Sanders/Warren supporter. Nor does it explain the crime-related shootings such as the one in Phily yesterday. Or the workplace shootings by “disgruntled employees”. Both of which are often dismissed by both sides as “The shooter must be crazy”; hence the ill-informed suggestion that all of those who have been treated are mentally challenged.

    Which means that before a rel solution to end the violence, regardless of the weapon used, is to ratchet down the political rhetoric. The best chance to do that is for the Senate to pass HR 8 – Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019. It closes the loopholes of background checks not being required for Internet or Gun Show sales. This “evens the playing field” for all gun purchases. (It was not technically practical when the current Gun registration law was passed. It is now.) It also contains very specific additions to the disqualification list that are sensible and supported by both political sides.

    HR 8 has already passed the House but is being held from the Senate floor. Write to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (he’s not our Senator, but he’s the only Senate Majority Leader we have) to urge him to bring this to the floor. While you’re writing to Senators, write to ours (Schumer and Gillibrand) to stop their politically motivated attacks on the GOP over gun control. In particular, Schumer’s statements that he doubts Trump is serious about gun control is counter-productive as it encourages the GOP to oppose HR 8 just because its passage might the Democrats a political edge.

    After the rhetoric and electioneering quiets down, then Congress can find an appropriate and Constitutionally permissable to reduce the violence and still maintain the States Rights of the 2nd Amendment.

  2. This guy again. I mean Steven Sanders. Putting words and feelings into…ah, Republicans. Steven is so obvious. He knows best. A very good soldier for the Democrats, but lousy on “just the facts.”

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