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Another Day In The Trigger Happy Capital

Another Day In The Trigger Happy Capital
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Twenty-six more dead at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on top of the fifty-eight killed in Las Vegas just over a month ago. Let’s see… carry the one, and that comes out to be eighty-four people killed in this country by mass-shootings in a little over a month. Oh, I forgot about the guy who walked into a Walmart and killed three people. That makes eighty-seven. Are there any others I neglected to count? Unfortunately, there are simply too many to tally. The reality is that as of Oct. 2, 2017 we have had approximately 11,600 gun-related deaths during 2017, and, with record months like October and November, this country is on track to make this tragic statistic far more so. Yet, once again, there is no action to back up the words and condolences, no new proposal, approach or legislation. It’s just another day in the trigger-happy capital of the world.

As always, there were plenty of tears, prayers and condemnations. President Trump referred to the shooting as an “act of evil”. Governor Abbot had this to say, “There are no words to describe the pure evil that we witnessed in Sutherland Springs today.” For conservatives, it seems that these acts spring forth from some malevolent source that is almost biblical in nature. It’s as though these shooters are possessed by the devil or are something other than human. I assure you; these shooters are not evil. They are our fellow human beings, and, just as they have gravely failed us, we too have somehow failed them.

As a society, we must comfort one another during such monstrous tragedies. We must help each other heal. However, thoughts and prayers can only do so much. What about the actual sickness? What can we do to help people like Devin Patrick Kelley before they act on their impulses? How do we better address what is clearly a present danger to this country? How can we be proactive in ensuring that mass-shootings of this nature do not become the “normal”? (I won’t even say “new,” because they are hardly so.)

But for a handful of powerful lobbyists, and the politicians in their pockets, most of the American people are very concerned about gun violence, mass shootings in particular. Many of them are Second-Amendment supporters who also support common-sense gun reforms. Despite what the NRA would have us believe, these are not mutually exclusive. There was some promising discussion about banning bump-stocks after the Las Vegas shooting; however, republicans quickly reversed course under orders from the NRA. The truth of the matter is, as long as this lobby has a stranglehold on congress, there will be no common sense gun reform. Unless of course you take Trump at his words (something his fellow republicans consider ill-advised).

Trump didn’t waste any time framing the debate in his first words about this tragedy: “This isn’t a guns situation…This is a mental health problem at the highest level.” Okay, now we have something that republicans (perhaps even the NRA) can agree on. This is indeed a mental health problem for it is difficult to imagine a mentally healthy person committing such a heinous crime. And if conservatives believe that mental health is the real problem, they would definitely agree that we need more programs and facilities to increase access to mental health services and improve treatment. And just as with any national emergency or health crisis of this magnitude, as politicians, they would also understand that this requires additional funding to make sure that the problem is properly addressed.

Yet, once again, we see the absolute hypocrisy of conservatives. The republican budget proposal and tax “overhaul” should channel additional money to combat this very deadly trend in our country. (Not to mention the country’s heroin epidemic). However, they have done just the opposite. If republicans get their budget passed, the Department of Health and Human Services will see a $600 billion cut over the next decade. The Affordable Care Act, which has many important provisions for proactive mental health and opioid-addiction treatments, was a step in the right direction. However, rather than correct or strengthen these provisions, the republicans have done nothing but undermine this legislation since it became law.

In their allegiance to the NRA, these politicians are also putting the American people in harm’s way. In February, Trump and the republicans blocked an Obama Administration provision that allowed the Social Security Office to communicate to the FBI regarding a gun license applicant’s mental health status. They also voted against a measure that would have blocked terrorism suspects from purchasing firearms. Republicans did generously propose a three business-day waiting period for suspected terrorists. (If the attorney general could not provide evidence in that time, the suspected terrorists could then buy as many weapons as they wished.) In addition, republicans voted overwhelming to maintain the gun-show loophole which doesn’t require the registration of gun sales outside registered arms dealerships.

When we focus on Kelley’s crime, we also see negligence on the part of government and military officials in inputting important data that would have clearly made him ineligible to purchase a firearm. Although Kelley was discharged by the Air Force for Domestic Violence, this data was not provided to the proper authorities, and, thus, didn’t come up on his record. According to a recent story by The New York Times, this is more the norm than the exception. These alarming revelations clearly show that we are not even properly enforcing laws, like the Lautenberg Amendment, that are already on the books. As more than half of gun deaths can be attributed to domestic violence, it is incumbent upon our government to make sure that these lethal weapons don’t end up in the wrong hands. This lapse in enforcement and reckless approach to guns endangers the lives of the American people.

What’s more dangerous is the GOP’s stonewalling response every time we suffer yet another mass shooting. No matter how many times our experts study these matters, republicans (who confess they are not scientists) find a way to discredit or disregard their findings. They do this with gun statistics, climate science and a variety of other issues that merit swift action.   What’s the point of having these committees perform exhaustive studies when their findings are either cherry-picked, manipulated or out and out ignored? Our politicians and corporations have already set their agenda and it has little to do with the interests of science, or the American people. The real question is; how many people need to die while they deliberate over what’s already been proven? And if you still doubt that access to guns is part of the problem, isn’t it still important to explore any possible correlations? Isn’t it the job of our lawmakers to explore all angles when confronted with horrific acts of this nature that happen with such frequency? This irrational and malignant assault on reason must cease if we ever hope to solve this and many other problems we face as a country.

If we are unwilling to listen to our experts; if we are unable to apply empirical data when considering how best to solve our problems, we fail as a rational society. If our government is unwilling or unable to apply the same scientific method in order to address these problems and make our society safer, then it fails in its job. One has to wonder when our politicians are going to stop with the prayers and empty excuses and actually do something other than their usual nothing. Unfortunately, the GOP is so compromised by lobby dollars and beholden to radical conservatives, that they will surely err on the side of inaction. However, their obstruction cannot continue forever.

Frankly, I would be happy if republicans gave their approach a try rather than simply using it as a stalling tactic. Mental health is certainly an important part of the equation and would make an excellent start. However, that will require money, something republicans are reluctant to lavish on the American people. (Unless of course they’re rich Americans who have paid for a place at the table.) With disastrous budget cuts and the decimation of the Affordable Care Act, it’s easy to see that the GOP is not serious about addressing the pandemic of gun violence in this country, nor the mental health problems we face as a nation. And now we’re back to square one; and, thanks to republicans, it seems like we’ve never left.

I can only hope for a day when people will finally wake from their inertia and see these killings as more than a cold dead statistic and demand action; a day when the gun lobby is exposed for its systematic fear-mongering in order to boost revenue; a day when average Americans look at the facts for themselves and say enough is enough. Why it hasn’t happened yet is beyond me. Perhaps that is where we need to channel our thoughts and prayers.





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