Nine dead in South Carolina. Six dead in Tennessee. Eight dead in Texas. Six dead in South Dakota. Ten dead in Oregon.
Over the last five months, the American people have witnessed the rising death toll of mass shootings. The media brought the deadliest cases to our attention, but there have been a total of 266 mass shootings in America since the beginning of 2015, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive.
The victims of these shootings are not only victims of a few disturbed individuals, but of a national epidemic: the failure to enact any kind of meaningful gun control legislation.
Casualties of an ideological war
Since the beginning of 2015, 10,064 Americans have died as a result of gun violence, according to GVA. In the first 72 hours of October, 57 died in various shootings across the country.
These numbers are outrageous. Yet they have not been enough to sway our legislators to side with those whose lives have been endangered or lost rather than with the all-too powerful lobbyists of pro-gun organizations. What should be a common-sense decision to protect the lives of Americans has turned into an ideological battle between right and left. This ongoing battle, like any on a battlefield, has only served to allow ineffective controls on gun ownership to claim a sickening number of lives.
After the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama tasked Vice President Biden with pushing comprehensive gun reform through Congress. The reform revolved around new, more robust background checks aimed at simply making it harder for the mentally ill to get their hands on a gun.
However, due to the intense lobbying and public relations efforts of the National Rifle Association, the bill died with little support from either party. It was the latest and most devastating failure for the Obama administration, especially considering the slaying of schoolchildren was not enough to sway public opinion to the point that legislators would be forced to ignore the will of the gun lobby.
Public opinion is the only real means for change, but the American people have become numb to gun violence. That begs the question: Will comprehensive reform ever materialize if not even the sight of dead children can galvanize public opinion?
The insidious effects of the gun lobby are also seen at the state level.
Many states, including Oregon, have made it “unlawful for jurisdictions to gather gun crime data,” according to Bob Garfield of NPR’s “On the Media.” “You can’t comprehensively find out what crimes were committed involving guns and that’s again from the direct lobbying of the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun organizations,” Garfield added.
Due to the efforts of the NRA, Congress has banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from spending money on public health research relating to guns, according to Michael Luo of The New York Times.
Common-sense reform has been stifled at every turn by lobbyists, and what’s more? Those same lobbyists have so effectively diminished the American public’s ability to see any meaningful information about the sickening effects that rampant gun use creates. Even gun owners should be angry about this. It is a systemic failure that does nothing to inform and protect the American people.
Despite the overwhelming death toll, the NRA and gun lobbyists are still refusing to budge on the issue.
The only thing that stops guy with a gun is not giving him a gun
The argument used most often against tighter gun control is best echoed in the words of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
While this statement speaks to the sentiment that guns are necessary for self-defense and the defense of others, available data suggests just the opposite.
According to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, the more guns are available in a society, the more prevalent homicide is in that society. Indeed, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Small Arms Survey found that in 2007, gun ownership in the United States was more than double that of India and China (the next most armed nations) combined, at approximately 270 million. Given that America stands 26th in the world for number of homicides committed with a firearm, with 60 percent of all homicides committed with a gun in 2012 according to the UNODC, it seems absurd that more guns will somehow make citizens safer.
We cannot pretend that guns make people safer when the evidence clearly points to the opposite. It is delusional.
Are you fighting for your freedom, or just taking someone else’s away?
Each time restrictions on access to firearms is proposed, they are met with cries that Americans’ Second Amendment rights are being violated. While the provisions laid out in the Bill of Rights doubtlessly secure many fundamental rights for American citizens, one would be remiss to so fervently defend but one amendment while ignoring the most fundamental right that was declared in the country’s founding document: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This is a right not only recognized by the founders in the Declaration of Independence, but also by the U.N. in its Declaration of Human rights. The “right to life, liberty and security of person,” as the U.N. states, is not an arbitrary right guaranteed only to some by virtue of geography; it is a fundamental human right that all are entitled to by virtue of existence, and it is one that is violated when our representatives allow firearms to become ubiquitous in our society.
We as Americans are at risk of being affected by gun violence every day. We cannot tolerate the majority of our legislators continuing to value their ideologies over our security.
The Nevada Sagebrush editor desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @The Sagebrush.