Reviews | US gun policy is a desperate need Democrats must fight for
The United States has long possessed some of the highest rates of gun violence in the world — and yet we consistently fail to act. Twenty-three years after Columbine, 10 years after Sandy Hook, six years after Orlando, the story remains the same. We get a cycle of news of thoughts, prayers and pleas for something to be done, but little change, despite the overwhelming support for stricter background checks and a ban on assault weapons.
Part of the problem is that while Democrats have broad support for their views, Republicans have greater intensity. Republicans have consistently reported more passion for gun politics than Democrats, which may translate to higher voter turnout. Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association is pressuring elected officials not to take wildly popular action, backing ultra-conservative Supreme Court nominees (who may soon rule concealed carry permit requirements are unconstitutional), and pours millions into the election — including more than $29 million in the 2020 cycle alone.
Those who support an end to the gun violence crisis are beginning to match the organization and intensity of the reactionary right on gun policy, from the federal level down. Still, the fights ahead are tough.
counterpointGun rights advocates are doing themselves a disservice by not addressing gun violence
First of all. In April, the administration tried to reinvigorate its gun control efforts by announcing a crackdown on “ghost guns” — unlicensed homemade firearms. This is an admirable step. But to effectively enforce federal gun policy, the country needs a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a position that hasn’t been filled since. seven years. The Biden Administration had to withdraw its first candidate, ATF Special Agent David Chipman, after barely speaking to him during the confirmation battle and torpedoing his chances by failing to persuade Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) to offer his support. Now there is an urgent need for the Senate to confirm Biden’s new nominee, Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney from the Northern District of Ohio. This time, the administration cannot be MIA on the ATF.
The Senate also needs to pass common-sense gun legislation, like several bills that have already passed the House. These include the Enhanced Background Checks Act, which would end the “Charleston loophole” that allowed Charleston shooter Dylann Roof to purchase a .45 caliber handgun despite his criminal history. There is also pending legislation requiring a background check on anyone who buys a gun — and giving the FBI more time to review reported buyers.
But even if the National Democrats can’t overcome the filibuster – has anyone suggested maybe getting rid of it? — progress can be made at state level. After the 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, the historically pro-gun state of Vermont enacted major restrictions, including increasing the minimum age to purchase firearms up to 21 years old and the banning of high-capacity magazines. Meanwhile, Massachusetts offers a nationwide model of safe gun buying: there, potential gun owners must pass a police interview and background check to obtain a gun license. handgun, take a gun safety course, and pass another background check by the gun dealer. Republican-controlled states have not been shy about expanding access to guns; recent measures include lifting handgun licensing requirements and eliminating mandatory background checks. Democratic legislatures should pursue restrictions just as aggressively.
For the greatest effectiveness, however, savvy Democrats know they must harness the grassroots energy of this cause. This means adopting movements such as Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms demand action with as much enthusiasm as Republicans bow down to the NRA. This means funding community-based violence interruption programs to defuse volatile situations. That means backing candidates who aren’t afraid to fight gun violence, like Georgia Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath (a former Everytown employee who ran for office after losing his son to gun violence), and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who has terrified armed groups enough to campaign for his impeachment). And that means controlling the narrative about gun violence instead of just responding to it. When Republicans talk about violent crime, Democrats need to stop pumping more money into bloated police budgets and instead bluntly tout a solution proven to actually work: common sense gun laws.
As decades pass without action on gun violence, people lose faith that our electoral system can deal with it. But Democrats can make progress on this issue — to protect people’s lives and restore faith that political differences can be settled through votes instead of violence.