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When Newtown Becomes Any Old Town

When Newtown Becomes Any Old Town
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BY DON PORTOLESE

Back in 2013, shortly after one of the most horrific mass-shootings in this nation’s history, there was a record 89 percent support for the implementation of universal background checks for gun purchases and other common-sense gun control legislation. With such a painful loss of so many innocent lives, it seemed that the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School had us on the verge of a sensible approach to dealing with the very serious problem of guns in this country.

A proposed amendment by republican senator Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania) and democrat Joseph Manchin III (West Virginia) seemed to embody the perfect mixture to address this problem. These weren’t flaming liberals hell-bent on usurping people’s Second Amendment rights. These were both card-carrying members of the NRA. These were gun-owners who sought something as simple as universal background checks for those who purchase guns. They put aside partisan bickering and decided to make the safety of our children rather than unregulated gun-ownership a priority for our country.

However, common sense has rarely entered the thinking of those who rail against any sensible gun reform and their NRA sponsors. The senate came six votes shy of the 60 votes necessary to pass this amendment. This was a devastating blow for every person in this country, whether they supported this amendment or not. It was the day we became destined to repeat the same tragedies ad infinitum, the day that Newtown became any old town.

Except for four or five in the Democratic Party, the majority of democrats voted for this amendment. Just as predictable was the near lockstep intransigence on the part of republicans to vote in favor. Even more predictable was the presence of NRA lobby dollars and pressure in the states these republicans claim to represent. Any politician who dared speak out in favor of stricter gun laws would be considered un-American and would soon be unseated by this powerful lobby.

As President Obama stated in his address after the recent shootings in Roseburg, Oregon, when we have any other problem that threatens the lives of American citizens, from degraded infrastructure to terrorist attacks, the government is there to address the problem in order to diminish the threat to the people of this country. Why is it that conservative politicians refuse to vote to do anything meaningful on gun control when it clearly poses a far greater danger?

Indeed, as Jeb Bush says, “stuff”, or “things” or even shit happens. When it happens with any degree of frequency, we begin to see a trend. When that trend illustrates the circumstances that make it manifest, we can more clearly see what needs to be done to prevent or diminish it. After so many mass-shootings, we are faced with undeniable and irrefutable realities. We are the only western democracy in the world where mass-shootings occur with such frequency. And, what sets us even more unacceptably apart from the rest of the world: We are the only western democracy who chooses to do nothing to address this very serious problem.

After mass shootings took place in Great Britain, Australia and host of other countries, governments and citizens worked together to curb gun access and to make sure those who purchased guns were more regulated. The result was a serious decline in the number of mass shootings as well as gun-related deaths.

Per usual, conservatives and their NRA sponsors claim that any statistics that compare the U.S. to other countries are like comparing apples to oranges. However, they have no problem citing statistics that indicate that Finland, Norway and Switzerland have more shootings per capita than the U.S. However, in raw numbers (and the numbers are becoming rawer with each new massacre) the U.S. leads the free world in gun violence and fatalities. Regardless of how you wish to manipulate those statistics, there is no justification for so many mass-shootings and even less justification for not doing anything to stop them.

Another way conservatives wish to subvert this issue is by playing the mental illness card. Go ahead and play it! It is certainly a large part of this problem. Just be prepared to play this card all the way to its proper conclusion. Our mental health system is absolutely atrocious and certainly needs to be improved. That means appropriating more money for mental health facilities, something conservatives have long voted against. If this is such an important part of the equation, why aren’t conservatives leading on this rather than obstructing any and all paths that lead to a solution to this problem?

It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to understand that mental illness clearly plays a role in mass shootings; however, it will require a non-partisan psychiatrist to assess the mental health of politicians who continue to subvert this issue and refuse to consider any legislation that will diminish gun violence in this country. Their callous blame-the-victim mentality and sociopathic nonchalance toward this issue make them complicit in this problem and accessories to these crimes.

The indifference of republicans who are currently jockeying for their party’s nomination shows there is little hope that we can depend on conservatives to help us resolve this problem in the future. They propose more prosecution and stiffer penalties for people who attempt to buy guns illegally. How can we even begin to know whether people are attempting to buy guns illegally if we can’t implement universal background checks or collect data on people who purchase guns?

Not one had anything constructive to say about this issue. Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee once again dangerously assert that more guns, not fewer are the answer. In Iowa, Marco Rubio had this enlightening thing to say, “We really need to focus on the facts before we make any hard decisions.”

And how long should we focus on those facts when they’ve been in front of us all along, Mr. Rubio? How many more deaths should we allow before we make those hard decisions? The facts and the statistics are irrefutable; the support for reform is there. The only difficulty with making the necessary reforms to our gun laws lies in conservatives’ NRA-sponsored approach to solving this problem, which is absolutely nothing.

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