In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, the conventional wisdom is that there cannot be a debate over stricter gun control laws. With 71 innocent moviegoers shot, 12 of those dead, the idea that a discussion about laws meant to prevent the next mass shooting is politically off limits seems odd and yet it’s as predictable as can be.
After every mass shooting, we have the same collective reaction: this is a tragedy and while gun control is important, we are a nation in mourning and a discussion about stricter laws would be considered too political, and out of respect for the families we should wait until more time passes. The problem with this is that while the discussion about preventative gun control laws never happens, another mass shooting always does.
It will take courage for elected officials — particularly Congressional Democrats — to speak out in support of more gun control. It isn’t clear that any of the people in power, including President Obama or Mitt Romney, who vying for his job, have the courage to address one of our country’s most pressing issues.
We are now living at a moment in time when the mainstream media claims with a straight face that it makes sense that the founders intended the Second Amendment to protect our right to own a semi-automatic assault rifle with a high caliber clip. This is about “freedom,” or so the right wing talking point goes, with no mention about the “freedom” of innocent moviegoers to go to the local cinema without threat of a mad man gunning them down with a legally purchased AR-15 that shoots 48 bullets per minute.
A decade ago, the debate was passionate, but there were gun control laws and assault weapons bans in place which the NRA successfully lobbied against. In Colorado, an expired ban on assault weapons may have prevented the shooting or at the very least made it much more difficult for John Holmes to purchase these weapons legally.
Could a mass shooting still happen even with these bans in place? Of course. But it’s very easy to also agree that stricter gun restrictions would help to lessen the frequency and save lives. Instead of even considering stricter laws, the most recent Congresses have actually proposed weakening gun control laws.
Mass shootings like the one in Aurora are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our nation’s epidemic of gun violence. In Chicago, President Obama’s home base, there were 1,205 gun incidents in the year 2012 alone. While high-profile incidents like the shooting in Arizona involving former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Virginia Tech, Columbine High School, and now another Colorado shooting in Aurora dominate headlines, it’s statistics that come out of our inner cities that remind is that this is a multi-pronged issue requiring a multi-faceted solution.
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg agrees, and as one of the only audible political voices since last week’s shooting, has called upon other elected officials to finally have the post mass shooting discussion we continue to avoid. “To those that say this is about gun control, it isn’t. It’s about crime control. This isn’t about somebody else, it’s about you and your kids,” said Bloomberg
The problem is that elected officials nowadays are controlled by special interests like the NRA. As long as Congress is unwilling to stand up to NRA, mass shootings will continue. As Bill Moyers, said after the Aurora shooting, “The NRA is the best friend a killer’s instinct ever had.” The NRA is winning the culture war over guns — striking a paralyzing fear of inaction in our politicians — and innocent Americans are getting killed in the crossfire.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @zerlinamaxwell