In my last post I wrote about the businesses who have decided to “come out” and tell their customers that they want nothing to do with their openly carried guns in their places of business. This would not have happened a month ago. But after the heinous shooting at an El Paso Walmart, it became obvious that any business could be the next one found in a Wikipedia entry for a mass shooting site. Who wants that to be your legacy?
Now the tide is coming in and it’s turning. A few days ago, 150 chief executives of some of America’s largest companies sent a letter to the Senate telling them that it’s “simply unacceptable” to not act on bills that could stop some of the gun violence that is affecting their customers and their businesses.
This is huge:
The letter — which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives — is the most concerted effort by the business community to enter the gun debate, one of the most polarizing issues in the nation and one that was long considered off limits.
It’s been “off limits” for far too long. The corporate gun lobby has made it so. And our elected leaders and many influential business leaders and others, for that matter, who could have made a difference decades ago have now decided to weigh in.
The thing is, the public has been ahead of elected leaders for decades now. Look at the latest poll which is just one of many showing the same results over the last few decades. Support is undeniable. But deny does Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump and the Republicans who have run out of excuses.
Why has it taken so long to act? Sometimes this is the way the system works I guess. But it does take bold action and a constant drumbeat of advocacy and also, I guess, one too many mass shootings, before it enters the collective consciousness of a country exhausted by the carnage.
When shootings in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso, Texas and then Odessa, Texas showed how people with AR-15s can inflict so much damage to human bodies in such a short time happened in rapid succession that appeared to be too much even for business leaders.
Let’s be clear. It’s been too much ever since the Columbine shooting became one of the first mass shootings to get the attention of the country. When our kids became the targets and the victims, mothers marched on DC in the Million Mom March in 2000. We were horrified at the shooting at a Jewish Day Care Center in California followed by the Columbine shooting and one brave woman, Donna Dees Thomases, stepped forward to lead the charge.
But that was 20 years ago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from gunshot injuries needlessly. We let the NRA lead the conversation with the second amendment as their foil to stop any common sense action to stop the next shooting. We let the gun lobby continue to protect gun manufacturer profits over lives. We let our leaders get away with avoiding any discussion about the role guns actually play in gun violence.
We are all to blame for this in a way. The Democrats got scared that if they touched the “third rail” of gun violence they would lose their seats. Never mind that thousands lost their loved ones. We tried. We have held rallies and hundreds of vigils. We have lobbied at the state and federal level. We have sent letters, made phone calls, visited with our leaders, lit candles, rang bells, and demanded action. We have lie-ins and sit-ins and stood up for common sense. We have protested in the streets of our towns and in the nation’s Capitol.
Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and severely wounded at a Tucson gathering outside of a mall and a group named for her and now called Giffords was formed. After the totally unimaginable happened at Sandy Hook elementary school a new group of mothers and others began- Moms Demand Action and Everytown.
Together, groups who have been working for decades like Brady, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and many independent state groups (States United) have been joined by a host of other groups to demand action. We are making a difference. Congress is now hearing us but the Republicans are not listening.
Even a few months ago, Democrats vying to become our next President would not have touched the issue of gun violence. But something happened after the Parkland shooting. The student survivors fought back and made their voices loud and clear. March For Our Lives joined the others and it was hard to ignore their young and articulate voices.
The tide is changing. At this week’s Democratic debate, candidates tripped all over themselves to be the one with the best plan for preventing gun violence. The loudest voice was that of former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke who represented El Paso. El Paso, the site of the mass shooting at a Walmart that was carried out by a White Supremacist whose rhetoric matched that of our sitting President. O’Rourke suspended his campaign to be with the victims in El Paso and it changed him.
Sitting with those whose sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, cousins and friends have just been shot and killed so suddenly and violently is hard work. Who among us wants to listen to those stories? But we must hear their stories if change is to happen. And it was so clear that the shooter in the El Paso incident should not have had a gun. It was so clear that the Dayton shooter should not have had a gun but they both got them anyway.
And then, the Odessa shooting showed us how, if we had passed a law requiring a background check on every gun sale, we could have prevented the shooting death of 7 innocent people and the permanent disfigurement of the face of a 17 month old baby.
So when Beto O’Rourke described sitting with the mother of a 15 year old girl as she died from the horrendous injuries caused by bullets from an AR-15, it was too much. There were so many injured people because AR-15s can do that- shoot as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, that ambulances couldn’t respond to the mayhem. And so, the 15 year old died as her mother watched her bleed to death.
And now we have the famous statement made by Beto O’Rourke calling for a mandatory buyback of AR-15s and AK-47 assault style weapons originally meant for war. His description of why these weapons have been used and are used by the military was something we have not heard a candidate say before. His passion was genuine and heard loudly and clearly.
Even some Democrats came unglued and are wringing their hands. Oh my- what will happen now? Will we lose voters? Did we make people too angry? Will we lose the Presidency? What should we do about this perceived threat to gun rights? I guess time will tell how this shakes out. At the least it started a very important discussion about weapons designed for war in the hands of civilians.
What Beto O’Rourke did was “accidentally” or on purpose speak the truth. The public knows that it is AR-15s that have been used in many of our mass shootings. The public at large does not want these weapons in circulation so they get into the hands of people who intend mass carnage. Even many gun owners don’t want them, don’t need them, and are willing to give them up.
O’Rourke’s loud call was heard by a sitting Texas state Senator who issued a tweet heard ’round the country.
And this, dear readers, is why we need to act and act soon. When gun rights extremists occupy our state houses and Congress and believe they can own any weapon they want to own with no restrictions and then issue threatening rhetoric at candidates for office, we have turned a very dangerous corner.
Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Assault Weapons Ban and the 15th anniversary of its’ death. which was famously allowed to sunset in 2004 after only 10 years of keeping us safer from weapons designed for war. The gun lobby keeps trying to tell us that these weapons don’t kill many people compared to other guns. They tell us that they love them and we hate them because they are scary looking. They tell us that they need them for hunting and sport.
No. When they kill, they kill many at a time and the bullets do much more damage to human tissue. That is why the military likes them.
No. They are not good for hunting.
No. They are not needed by anyone for self defense or sport.
Here are some facts offered by Brady that were sent out on social media yesterday:
“In shootings with assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, 155% more people are shot and 47% more people are killed. These weapons of war were designed for mass destruction. (…) According to the @nytimes, the federal assault weapon ban — which ran from Sept. 13, 1994 to Sept. 13, 2004 — was associated with a 25% drop in gun massacres and 40% percent drop in fatalities. (…) On September 13, 2004, Congress let the federal assault weapons ban expire. In the decade after, America saw a 347% increase in fatalities in gun massacres. Enough is enough. Congress: it’s past time to end this bloodshed and #BanAssaultWeapons now! “
Yes. We can save lives if we ban assault weapons. Yes. We can save lives if we pass universal background check and red flag laws. Yes. We can do this. Yes. It’s past time. Yes. Beto O’Rourke said something that people are talking about. Was it too extreme?
Was it to extreme for 53 Americans to be shot in mass shootings just in August?
Is it too extreme that the Republicans have stopped every reasonable gun bill coming their way and let Americans die as a result?
Is it too extreme to let the NRA write our gun bills?
Is ti too extreme that the NRA had help from Russia to get our current President get elected?
Is it too extreme that our President swings like a pendulum whenever a mass shooting happens and then fails to act?
Is the cost of an assault weapons buy-back too extreme?
Is the actual cost in billions of dollars attributed to gun violence and all that happens in the aftermath too extreme?
Is it too extreme that a group of student survivors had to write their own plan, in the absence of action from Congress, to stop gun violence?
Is it too extreme that a book, “If I Don’t Make It, I Love You” was published because children are texting their parents in terror during lock-down drills and during actual shootings? Survivors who wrote in the book are not extreme people. They are average Americans who have experienced the terror of school shootings and survived to tell their stories.
Is it too extreme that our children are the targets of mass shooters?
Is it too extreme that the American Federation of Teachers, March For Our Lives and Brady teamed up to run an ad in Politico showing a student hiding under a desk during a lock-down drill?
Is it too extreme that our schools have been forced to have these drills in the first place because our leaders refuse to act to prevent school shooters from getting guns in the first place?
I know the answers. I own the book pictured above and know some of the people who wrote sections of that book. I understand that even still, decades after shootings, they do not forget the terror. I also know some people affected by mass shootings and “everyday shootings” like my own sister’s. I know the emotional and financial trauma suffered by too many. I have met some of the survivors of these shootings and seen the sadness in their eyes.
You know the answers. The public understands. The Democrats are not afraid anymore. American business leaders are not afraid anymore. Teachers, parents and students are not afraid to speak out. Survivors are not afraid. The stakes are high. Lives are at stake.
The only ones still afraid of the corporate gun lobby are the ones who can make the difference.They are afraid they will lose their power and influence and yes, campaign donations. If they won’t act, we will. We will make sure they are voted out of office and left to wonder what happened and why they refused to act on our nation’s epidemic of gun violence.