Last week, America had its most recent “mass casualty event” when a young man carried out an attack on Umpqua Community College’s campus, killing nine and injuring more than twenty others. Again the nation and the world recoiled in shock at the violence and we all posted our heartfelt messages and reiterated the tired phrase that “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.” President Obama gave, once more, an impassioned press conference on the shooting. The cycle had repeated itself and there was even a tone of defeat when the President discussed his powerlessness to change the law with a Republican Congress.
But if truth be told, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. They never will be. What is requested of by the families of victims and what is demanded of our moral conscience is not to reiterate our thoughts, but to turn those thoughts into direct action.
This is not a one off event. The Rachel Maddow show exhibited data that showed that using the FBI’s definition of a mass shooting event (4 of more victims) there has been at least one mass shooting in a calendar week since the reelection of President Obama. Thankfully, this event has also not been ignored by other countries. Australia has spoken out forcefully on our epidemic of gun violence and is looking to take international action to slow travel to the US so long as our porous gun laws remain.
Despite this, we are left blowing in the breeze, stuck between the fervent wishes of a Democratic President and a implacable Congress. Between the bizarre Trumpism that this will always happen and that “they [the perpetrators] are a genius in a way “ and the insistent demands of Hilary Clinton to change this vicious cycle. With a divided government and an election year just getting started there is little hope that anything meaningful will pass to curb this epidemic.
Remember when a handful of people tested positive for ebola and the nation promptly freaked out? Or how about when one man tried to use his shoes to blow up a plane and not we all must take our shoes off at the airport? Where is that reaction when thousands of innocent citizens are dying a year over gun violence? While many felt these reactions were overkill, and maybe they were, why is it that for these instances we will do everything it takes to secure ourselves, but not when it comes to guns?
The answer certainly can’t be the Second Amendment. While Justice Antonin Scalia’s Heller decision found, for the first time, the implied right to own a gun on the individual level, this does not preclude Congressional action. The answer cannot be that we are simply all apathetic. I take everyone at their word that their thoughts and prayers are with the families and those injured. So why is it that after countless shootings, an attempted assassination of a Congresswoman, several theater shootings, an attack on a black church, the slaughter of children in Sandy Hook, dozens of school shootings (including this most recent attack) we do nothing but sit idly by?
The answer in my view is Congress. A Congress that is mired in gerrymandered House districts and funded by the NRA. A Congress that needs to play chicken with economic deadlines, that threatens to shut down the government and has at times defaulted on our debt. A Congress more concerned with electoral success than legislative achievements. The end to the tyranny of gun violence will only come to America when we get a Democratic Congress, or the sane members of the Republican Party stand up to the NRA and say enough is enough.