A 20 year old madman walked into a Newtown, Connecticut elementary grade school and took the lives of 20 children, six teachers, one principal and then took his life. Before the school killing, he killed his own mother. The school’s number of killings marks it as the second worse mass shooting in U.S. history behind Virginia Tech in 2007. Will this be the one that starts the political gun talk and gets our politicians’ attention?
Mother Jones reveals that 30 states have had mass murders since 1982. In recent years, mass killings have included the Arizona gunman who shot Gabriele Giffords and killed six others, the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings of 71 wounded and 12 killed and 1989 Columbine High school. And every day in America there are gun violence killings in many urban cities across America. Last week, football player Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend and then took his life. This week, gun violence also erupted in an Oregon shopping mall.
Guns are embedded in our culture from the beginning. They’re in the U.S. Constitution–the 2nd amendment’s right to bear arms. It’s also how we became the United States by taking land from the Native Americans–using guns. And now no one seems to be able to answer the question of why can’t we do something about gun violence. The most important question is when will we do something about gun violence in America. And that answer must be now.
It’s past time to talk about gun violence in America, now is the time to take action. While 34 states have been busy passing laws to restrict voting rights, no state and few politicians speak out against gun violence. The time and effort spent on enacting restrictive voting laws against non-existent voter fraud, should have been used on our real problem- gun violence. Few politicians will do anything about the gun violence. But now is the time for our leaders to stand with our law enforcement officials against the gun lobby to get serious about gun violence.
While opponents argue against any type of gun control, most voters strongly support stronger gun control. Nearly two-thirds of Americans agree that we should ban the sale of assault weapons. Republicans let the assault weapons ban expire in 2004. And another two-thirds of Americans support banning high capacity magazines or clips that can carry 30, 50 or 100 bullets at one time. Unfortunately, there are almost no restriction on the type of weapons available for purchase by private individuals, including military-style assault weapons.
Today, only federally licensed gun dealers are required by law to run background checks and 40% of gun sales or six million guns a year are sold by unlicensed dealers who are not subject to the law. What that means is anyone can buy a gun from a private seller or at a gun show with no questions asked and without any background checks.
Even in the wake of other mass school killings of Virginia Tech and Columbine, Kansas, Mississippi and Utah allow guns on school grounds, including elementary schools; Utah allows guns in buildings that house pre-schools and daycare centers. In Ohio, it’s legal to carry a gun into a bar. Everyone should know that alcohol and guns don’t mix. Arizona and Wyoming allow guns to be carried without any permit at all.
Every day in America, people suffer from gun violence. There are 34 persons who are killed in America by guns each day—not including suicides or accidents. In urban cities across America, many students are as concerned about studying as they are about gun violence.
It’s no excuse that the “bad guys” will always have guns. We need to do what we can to protect innocent persons against gun loopholes to prevent gun violence. We need to do what we can to protect Americans from unnecessary gun violence. And we need to do it now. No politician wants to address gun violence in a meaningful way. Most do not ever want to have the gun talk. Even the White House spokesman, Jay Carney said that this is not the time to have the talk. But we need action. And we need it now. Somehow, I think it will get a lot worse before politicians will be able to muster the courage and backbone against the NRA to have the talk and to take some action.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national, international and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Washington Times among others. She also contributes to the Huffington Post.