Again and Again and Again
Laws can prevent and reduce mass murder
My new piece is about America’s epidemic of gun violence and the mass murder of children….
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Stopping Mass Murder
The students who lived through the horrific mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary are now beginning high school.
People who graduated from Columbine—a massacre of 15 students that roiled the nation for weeks but has been “eclipsed” by the body count of Tuesday’s Texas massacre—have school-age children of their own. The deceased shooter in Uvalde swiftly killed 21, including 19 children. This is another community traumatized and defined by preventable gun violence.
America is raising a generation steeped in the normalcy of gun violence.
Governments that make it extremely easy to get guns oversee populations that commit more gun violence, (a fact we we noted about Texas GOP policy on Tuesday night, while reporting this horrific news.)
Most Americans support strengthening safety laws to curb gun violence.
How do we reconcile these realities?
The standoff over gun safety and gun control measures does not turn on some endless or deep-seated public debate. It’s a contrast to, for example, policing—an issue where people strongly disagree about what to do.
Most Americans support background checks. And limiting the type of loose gun sales exploited by violent and criminal elements. And banning all assault-style weapons.
We know those measures reduce gun violence because we know similar countries that use those measures have fewer guns and far less gun violence.
So while policing debates are about policing—this gun debate isn’t. It’s actually about a broken Congressional system that enables a small minority to take political hostages and prevent public safety regulation.
The elected officials with a majority mandate—the current President and House—back gun safety. Take the House elected in 2020: It passed a background check bill just last year.
But Senate Republicans use obstruction tactics like the filibuster to prevent any majority floor vote on that (and related) legislation.
That dynamic is reinforced by another structural hole in American government: While the House approximates the voting public, the Senate does not at all. Republican senators largely hail from small states and even when in control of the Senate (by a vote of states not people) they have not actually represent most of the voters since 1996.
And projections show that trend intensifying:
Two-thirds of Americans will be represented by just 30% of the Senate by 2040 (per Washington Post projections).
Safety and Power
So as we go through this tragic, morbid ritual again—marking another mass murder, grieving, summoning outrage for action, watching a minority of politicians stifle it—the fact is this particular problem is more about antiquated rules of the U.S. government than a problem of “political will.”
The will is there. It is being blocked.
The main way to change the standoff in Congress is to reform the Senate’s rules by majority vote—which requires electing 50+ senators willing to do that, or amending the Constitution (an even higher bar).
To accept this as “normal” or “hopeless” is to make it more so. History is full of struggles that seemed intractable until they weren’t. Entire movements have been built around galvanizing outrage over a “losing” issue until voters changed the composition of government, sometimes over many, many election cycles. (The Right has often leaned into the perception it is “losing” moral battles and most of government should be supplanted.) And that’s all on the level of federal regulation.
Given these structural walls, there are also other ways people are pushing accountability.
Shooting victims have turned to the courts, suing gun manufacturers. The first ever victory against a gun manufacturer came just this year, as we reported on The Beat.
Some activists are trying to pressure the NRA and gun groups for their actions, and build a stronger “single issue” lobby to build power for a movement to counter them. And more broadly, in a digital society where more people can weigh in on everything, some activists, students and parents are trying to speak out “beyond politics” and build a new generation that might view this as a public safety emergency, and demand more action from both parties.
Do you think the current, rising rate of gun violence is something we should have to live with? What else do you think can be done? Tell me in the comments and I will respond—this is one of the hardest realities to live with, to discuss, to cover… but we will keep at it, together.
P.S. The shooter used the controversial military grade weapon an AR-15, here is our recent report about why that weapon can be regulated as a weapon of war: