One of the biggest ironies of the government shutdown was that the GOP -- and particularly the tea party -- usually hail themselves as defenders of the Constitution, especially when it comes to the Second Amendment. Not only did the party completely disregarded the Supreme Court's constitutional right to uphold the Affordable Care Act, but listening to the Republican Party during the shutdown they claim that government has never been more intrusive in their lives.
What are they talking about? To be fair though, many GOPers didn't have any idea what their actual aim in shutting down the government was. For one of many examples of this, see the Daily Show's hilarious and poignant clip where GOP strategist Noelle Nikpour has no idea what her party's aims even are. Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) explained, "We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is." That is pretty reassuring when his party nearly brought not only our economy but also the international economy to the brink. Even when the global recession sparked by U.S. bankers has already worsened the economic downturn Europe was already facing, leading parents and children to struggle with hunger in Greece and Spain.
However, it is not surprising that the GOP carelessly cost our country $24 billion, when all of the party's aims are bad for the economic well being and/or the health of most American people, with unchecked gun ownership being at the very top of the list. Because in the United States, we have so much freedom that anyone can access assault riffles and carry out a massacre if they are deranged, anti-government, senile, or racist enough to do so.
Although I have been critical of Mayor Bloomberg for some of his citywide policies, no cause merits the funneling of his personal wealth more than curbing gun violence. Even New York City, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, has a big problem with illegal guns, because other states have not stepped up to the plate by passing stricter gun laws. Ninety percent of gun violence stems from out-of-state gun purchases. Therefore, in 2006, under Mayor Bloomberg's orders, New York City sued out-of-state gun stores for making illegal weapon sales, which then showed up at the scenes of violent crimes in the city. Under pressure from the Bush Administration, the Department of Justice said that Mayor Bloomberg could no longer investigate and sue out-of-state dealers for making illegal sales. Virginia and West Virginia banned Bloomberg's practice of sending secret agents to discover illegal gun sales, deemed "straw purchases, where buyers purchase weapons for individuals that cannot pass the safety clearance (and that is not saying much in many of the Southern states).
How can politicians in these states think that Bloomberg reporting on illegal gun sales is more serious than the transaction itself? How can they overlook it when individuals purchase guns using false information? When the children of my casework clients in East New York, Brooklyn cannot go trick-or-treating because a little girl was killed buy an illegal gun at her bus stop in their neighborhood, this concerns everyone.
Many illegal weapons in New York City hail from the state of Virginia, where Aaron Alexis legally purchased his weapons despite the Navy having expressed concerns about his mental state. After the Naval Yard shooting President Obama said that he will keep pushing for gun control. Yet Republicans immediately jumped on Obama for being "too partisan". President Obama was right to be partisan about gun control because Aaron Alexis would not have been able to kill the 12 victims he did if it were not for Virginia's lax gun control laws. Security at the D.C. Naval Yard is suspected to have been reduced a result of Republican-induced sequestration.
Bloomberg gave pro-gun-control gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe $1.1 million towards his campaign. Ken Cuccinelli has stated his opposition to all background checks, countering that Virginia has been successful at "screening out people with mental illness from gun purchases" and "prosecuting people who attempt to buy guns illegally." Had he forgotten about the Naval Yard shooting and Virginia Tech?
Like at Columbine and in countless other shootings, shooters have often been bullied. Newtown shooter Adam Lanza was described as "feeling alone, and with access to guns." The loneliness part is much more difficult for the government to regulate than the access to guns bit. As this incredibly moving video made by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America demonstrates, school shooting after school shooting have occurred without enough political will being fostered to prevent another one from taking place.
It is impossible for institutions like schools to monitor every person who may be displaying troubled behavior. Even so, red flags had been raised about the Virginia Tech shooter, yet he was still able to purchase firepower in the commonwealth. Likewise, Gabrielle Giffords' shooter had a history of troubled ramblings in class and on MySpace and YouTube, yet he was also able to buy firearms in Arizona thanks to the state's loose gun laws.
Republican-backed and sponsored bills now allow guns in bars and even shopping malls. It should be obvious that drinking makes firearms even more dangerous. In Dallas, an 8-year-old child recently got shot in the face by a drunk stranger while playing in his front yard. And in Ohio, it is legal for loaded handguns to be in motor vehicles "without securing it in a holster, case, bag or box." Yet again, these laws set the stage for terrifying accidents to occur.
Mark Follman of Mother Jones argues that the more heavily armed America has become -- a terrifying 100 million more guns since 1995 -- the more shootings have taken place. It is incredible that there have been 25 mass shootings since 2006; in 2007 alone, 140 people were injured or killed as a consequence. Clearly we must be doing something wrong. The "good armed Samaritans" NRA-backed approached to gun violence has rarely worked. Dr. Stephen Hargarten, a leading expert on emergency medicine and gun violence at the Medical College of Wisconsin, explains there lacks evidence to demonstrate that arming more Americans will prevent mass shootings. Instead, his study has shown that it often increases the bloodshed. And teachers and other bystanders should not have to make the unbearable decision to sacrifice themselves, as teachers did for their students in Las Vegas and Newtown. I am sick of hearing politicians say that the victims are in their thoughts and prayers and highlighting tragic acts of heroism that took place. Thoughts and prayers are not enough to quell this endemic. Gun laws are.
Should we now expect that mass shooting could occur almost on a daily basis? When I wrote that last week, there had not yet been three mass shootings within four days, which there since have been. Thanks to the NRA and their GOP supporters, are we just supposed to resign ourselves to the possibility that we can get shot while checking in at the airport and that our children, and their teachers, risk getting shot every time they go to school? Allowing nearly free access to gun ownership establishes a state of terror more extreme than any terrorist cell has ever established. For as much as the Republicans are obsessed with terrorism and supposedly with keeping our country safe, they have even voted against restricting individuals on our "do not fly list" from purchasing firearms.
When the children of family friends in Connecticut do drills at school where they pretend a shooter is in the building, that feels like terror. It does too when I worry about someone gunning me down when I am in my university's library. And although we have spent trillions of dollars on the War on Terror (might this have possibly increased the debt ceiling anyone?), statistically there is a far greater risk of being killed by a gun in the U.S. than through an act of terrorism.
The extreme hypocrisy is that while the NRA -- and many Republicans -- are advocating for guns in schools, and that easy, unchecked access to assault riffles have enabled shooters to kill dozens of children within minutes, guns are not allowed in federal buildings. Why should guns be restricted in military zones and in federal buildings when, according to many members of the GOP, they do belong in schools? But then again, this is coming from a party whose Congressmen just gave themselves a raise -- at least they managed to agree on that -- and kept their taxpayer funded gym memberships while thousands of minimum wage federal employees were not paid.
Dianne Feinstein, who I admire so much for her ongoing attempts to pass gun control legislation, responded to the LAX shooting by stating that the type of weapon used -- the exact same assault weapon used in Aurora -- was intended for policemen and the military, not civilians. No one should be able to access so much firepower that they can shoot dozens of humans within minutes. Charles P. Pierce's excellent piece about the LAX shooting argues, "The only thing 'random' about it is the shooter. He could be anyone, and that's the point."
It is terrifying that our society has come to this and is hard to believe that the NRA and many politicians prioritize the rights of gun sellers and of anyone being able to access high capacity weapons over keeping our society safe. Despite the intense pressure the NRA brings to make sure pro-gun control candidates lose elections, McAuliffe bravely said in a debate, "Now whatever rating I may get from the NRA. I'm gonna stand here and tell you today that as governor, I want to make sure that every one of our citizens in the Commonwealth of Virginia are safe. Every one of our children, when they go into a classroom, should know that they are safe." This is why McAuliffe must win the gubernatorial race today. Because few things are threatening our country more than gun violence.