Raging Against the Insanity of Guns in America
There is no easy path to change our laws and protecting our citizens, but there is also no other option than continuing to push
There are no words to describe what happened in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday. The grief we feel for victims and their families is quickly followed by pure, unadulterated rage that we live in a country that chooses to let our fellow citizens — even our children — be slaughtered in schools, grocery stores, and houses of worship.
Let’s be clear. This is a choice. There are simple solutions to make what happened in Uvalde this week and Buffalo last week.
But as a country, we do none of those things. There were no substantial pieces of gun safety legislation passed after17 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. Nothing happened after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. And nothing is likely to happen after this tragedy or the next one. That is the reality with which we must all reckon. As President Obama said in 2012 at the prayer vigil for the lives lost in Newtown:
No matter how much you love these kids, you can't do it by yourself. This job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation. And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we're counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that we're all parents; that they're all our children.
This is our first task — caring for our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. That's how, as a society, we will be judged.
A decade later. We have failed. And we deserve to be judged harshly. The United States is the only country in the world that actively tolerates this level of violence against its citizens.
Whenever something bad happens — Trump gets reelected, Roe is poised to be overturned, voting rights fail, I try to give readers of this newsletter a place to channel their anger and disappointment, always believing that constructive action is the best catharsis. In this case, I am not so sure. It’s hard to go back to a grieving populace and once again say that if we just work a little harder, make a few more calls, or knock on more doors, something will change. But the only other option is to give up and assent to more death. So as hard as it is, we must get back to work and keep pushing the boulder up the hill.
If you stopped reading right here out of pure exhaustion at our broken politics and the moral bankruptcy of the Republicans who view mass shootings as the cost of doing business, I would not blame you. But for everyone else, I want to offer a few thoughts on what comes next.
The Very Hard Path Forward
Ultimately, there is no greater indictment on the failures of our political system than the inability to pass commonsense gun safety measures despite bipartisan support in the country and in Congress. Our system is simply incapable of enacting solutions on politically polarizing issues. There are two problems. First, we have a Senate map and an electoral college that awards massively disproportionate power to the distinct minority of Americans who oppose gun safety laws. The second problem is the filibuster which gives a minority of Senators representing an even smaller minority of the population a veto over legislation. The problem isn’t just a broken system, but that the Republican Party continues to ruthlessly exploit the loopholes in our broken system to protect their extreme pro-gun agenda. I don’t say all of this to make yet another argument for the structural reform that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema keep blocking. I think it is worth understanding the impediments to progress and the true adversary in order to direct our anger and our energy in the right direction.
While progress may seem impossible, it is actually within our reach. We are two Senate votes away from eliminating the filibuster and sending gun safety legislation to the President’s desk. As Greg Sargent wrote in the Washington Post:
In the wake of the latest horror, Democrats should tell voters clearly that if they deliver two more Democratic senators, they will suspend the filibuster and pass new gun safety measures. Tell voters that they have recourse, and be *specific* about it.
Congress is not the only solution. There are hopeful signs at the state-level. Even in Florida, where a Republican governor and legislature, under pressure from activists, signed gun safety laws into place. These laws weren’t everything. Far from it; but they were something. As David Hogg, one of the leaders of that effort put it on Twitter:
Lastly, all of us — but particularly professional political types like myself — need to widen the aperture about which strategies we employ. There is much debate about the efficacy and appropriateness of Beto O’Rourke confronting Texas Governor Greg Abbott at a press conference.
Maybe it was helpful. Maybe it wasn’t. Unfortunately, the traditional way of responding to these crises has not worked. There is a reason social media has been dominated in the last 24 hours by clips of O’Rourke, Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, and Senator Chris Murphy's passionate speech on the Senate floor. There is a very real appetite for our leaders to reflect the rage and grief we all feel. Lives are at stake. Our children’s lives are at stake. Maybe, it’s time to fucking show it.
If you are looking for ways to help those affected by the shooting in Uvalde, this article from the Washington Post has a list of ways to do so.
Desensitization, making us feel we can’t do anything is part of the plan to more us away from democracy. “Systemic gun violence is part of a Republican political design to destabilize American society.” This piece from Ruth Ben-Ghait, professor of authoritarianism, says more - https://lucid.substack.com/p/mass-shootingslucid-q-and-a-may-27?r=bi4n&s=r&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web
Thanks Dan for the realistic but still somehow hopeful take on the very grim reality of gun violence in America. I definitely agree that progressive activists and politicians need to try new things. Our current political system and media environment is broken and trying to work strictly within the traditional confines of those is doomed to failure. Some things will work and others won't, but we won't know until people try.