The recent mass murder in Indianapolis makes me wonder once again who is crazier: the gunmen who carry out these massacres, or the millions of Americans who vote for politicians who oppose laws that would prevent these tragedies.
Undoubtedly, the voters are largely to blame, because they are supposed to be in their right minds. At the very least, they should stop voting for legislators who oppose something as basic as background checks for those who want to buy a gun.
Shamefully, Republicans in the U.S. Senate are blocking a new House bill that would require stricter background checks. That’s despite the fact that 84% of voters support stronger background checks, according to a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll.
The mass shooting that left eight dead and at least seven wounded in Indianapolis was the 45th mass shooting in the past 30 days, according to a CNN tally. In the first three months of this year, there were more than 4,500 gun deaths, more than 8,100 injuries and at least 147 mass shootings nationwide, according to Gun Violence Archive, a nonpartisan research group that defines “mass shooting” as an incident with at least four deaths.
More than 19,000 people died in gun homicides last year, a record for the past two decades and nearly 25% more than the previous year, according to Gun Violence Archive. Joe Biden announced several executive actions earlier this month to combat what he called an “epidemic and an international disgrace.”
Of course, Biden is a vast improvement over Donald Trump, who did everything he could to pander to gun manufacturers, and opposed initiatives to control the proliferation of weapons of war. But the measures Biden announced so far have been timid compared to his campaign promises to ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons.
Biden administration officials are asking voters to pressure Republican senators to support the background check bill that passed the House last month. According to the Morning Consult/Politico poll, 91% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans support background checks for all gun buyers. Ideally, Congress should do much more than that and pass legislation to ban semi-automatic weapons.
The gun lobby’s argument that such laws would violate the Constitution is ridiculous. The Constitution says Americans have the right to bear arms, but it does not say they have the right to buy a grenade or a nuclear weapon. The Constitution also protects the right to free speech, but it does not say you have the right to defame someone.
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, an official with the pro-gun control organization Giffords and a former Florida congresswoman, told me that the first priority in reducing the number of mass shootings – before trying to limit semi-automatic weapons – should be to get the Senate to pass the background check bill. “Although the gun lobby has tried to politicize it, this is something that’s supported by Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike,” she said. “It’s something that unites everybody.”*
Mucarsel-Powell, whose father was shot and killed when she was a child in her native Ecuador, added, “We can’t accept the Senate’s lack of courage to act.”* She may be right. After so many years of congressional failure to pass substantive gun laws, it may be time to focus on a modest but achievable goal. Start with something as simple as increasing background checks and begin to reduce bloodshed.
*Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.