Sohn: It's time to shoot down gun violence

Sohn: It's time to shoot down gun violence

August 11th, 2019 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

In this Aug. 7, 2019, file photo, demonstrators gather to protest after a mass shooting that occurred in Dayton, Ohio. The latest mass shootings in the United States have triggered multiple countries to warn their citizens to be wary of travel conditions there. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

It's pretty clear that most Americans are fed up with mass shootings. Frankly, most of us are fed up with all shootings.

And it doesn't matter whether we're Democratic or Republican, independent or purple polka-dotted: We're tired of dangerous gun use. Guns are for deer hunting, not streets or schools or restaurants or festivals.

Even before three separate gunmen went on rampages in the span of a week leaving 34 people dead and dozens more wounded, a Quinnipiac poll earlier this year found that 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks for all gun buyers. The poll showed that 95 percent of Democrats, 94 percent of independents and 89 percent of Republicans supported change. The National Rifle Association — a big funder of politicians — portrays the checks as an affront to our Constitution's Second Amendment right to bear arms.

But Americans get it. Americans don't find it acceptable that in 2016, our Republican-led Senate feared the NRA more than terrorists when it voted down proposals to bar gun sales to people on the FBI's terrorism watch list.

Americans don't think it's OK that it is about as easy to buy a gun in the United States as it is to buy one in Yemen — a country torn by a civil war. In Yemen, where the health care system has collapsed, laws are unenforced and at least 8.4 million people are at risk of starvation, one just needs to go to a gun market or find a seller online and buy one. In America, to buy a gun you must pass an "instant" background check that is supposed to consider criminal convictions, domestic violence and immigration status. That is — if you're buying from a gun dealer. But if you're buying from a private seller, even at a gun show, the background check is not — repeat, not — required. You might as well be in Yemen — the country with the second-highest gun ownership rate in the world — right behind No. 1 America.

Americans don't find it reasonable that our political leaders just look away when anyone suggests banning military style semiautomatic weapons — guns of war and the seeming guns of choice for mass killers.

Americans don't find it amusing — or a bargain — that a hot back-to-school seller is a bulletproof backpack for around $130. Igor Volsky, the director of Guns Down America, a gun-control advocacy group, termed the backpacks ""incredibly depressing. The market is trying to solve for a problem that our politicians have refused to solve."

For the most part, American politicians have just looked away, as the United States — as of Thursday afternoon — has become the scene of 255 mass shootings in 2019 alone and an astonishing 2,181 since the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Mass shootings, according to gunviolencearchive.org, are defined as those in which four or more people, excluding the shooter, were shot but not necessarily killed.

Our leaders' tired expressions of "thoughts and prayers" for the dead, wounded and affected men, women and children have become the street protest signs that mock political inaction.

It is, then, no wonder that Democratic candidates for president, even before the newest carnage, had made gun control a top issue on their campaign trails.

In the aftermath of recent shootings in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso, Texas, and Gilroy, California — all wrought by white, American men — some political observers think the political winds may finally be changing. Just last week, the president and several Republicans suggested "red-flag" laws to police guns in the hands of people exhibiting mental health problems. That sounds good, but it's an after-the-horse-is-out-of-the-barn approach. We need more.

In late February, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed two gun control measures — the first in two decades.

The first was a universal background check bill on all commercial gun sales, including those at gun shows and online. That measure alone would close loopholes that allow at least one in five guns to be sold without a completed check. House members also voted on a bill that requires sellers to wait to continue firearm transactions from three to 10 days.

Neither bill was taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate.

A news talk show host at the time asked Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-New Jersey, what he had to say to Republicans who claimed the measure wouldn't make things safer?

"Oh, come on. I have yet to have a Republican [in Congress] tell me that. The problem is that ... it's become so political. That's why the 92 percent [of Americans] think it's so important. It doesn't mean you can't get a gun, it doesn't mean you can't go hunting."

Clearly most Americans know that. We don't need research to tell us that universal background checks would save tens of thousands of lives. We see it and read in the news daily. We see it in our communities. In our cemeteries.

And how will we pay for what some nay-saying Republicans term "growing government" to make the checks and stop the sales or even take away guns from people with problems?

For starters, perhaps we might be able to redirect some of the money saved by lowering the number of the mass shooting investigations, which are now averaging more than one a day.

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