By Hermes and Aristophanes
Another horrific mass shooting, this time at a Sunday night concert in Las Vegas, has brought the issue of gun control to the fore. This attack, the deadliest in modern American history, left at least 59 people dead and 527 others injured, yet the United States continues to have some of the laxest gun laws, and highest rates of ownership, in the entire developed world. Consequently, our country has, by far, the greatest amount of firearms-related violence — nearly quadruple that of the second-worst offender, Switzerland.
Our leaders on the right, as well as a few on the left, can no longer deny the danger we face. Neither can we accept that nothing can be done. If one simply looks at the numerous examples of successful gun-control policies in other nations, it becomes apparent that our epidemic of violence is largely self-inflicted.
If we want to reverse a ghastly trend, we must politicize the Las Vegas shooting. We must hold to account the members of Congress who continue to kowtow to the whims of the increasingly powerful gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association. This isn’t a partisan battle — public opinion clearly favors harsher restrictions on who can own a firearm and how powerful the weapon can be, regardless of political affiliation.
The inability to tighten gun laws is primarily a failure of democratic accountability, and the Republican Party is disproportionately at fault.
Despite the fact that even conservative voters favor at least some forms of enhanced gun control, Republican leadership has shown no desire to prevent further bloodshed. A Republican-sponsored bill to loosen restrictions on gun silencers was expected for debate in the House of Representatives soon, but has since been delayed following the attack at Mandalay Bay. Earlier this year, a Republican-controlled Congress made it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns. Other bills, such as one that would allow interstate use of concealed-carry permits, are still making their way through the legislative process.
The United States is one of only a handful of countries with a constitutional right to bear arms. This makes gun control more difficult, but hardly impossible. This right does not need to be overridden entirely in order to enforce sensible regulation. We already restrict who can fly a plane, drive a car and own certain types of pets, among countless other things; few decry these measures as antithetical to personal liberty. Lawful gun owners can keep their pistols, but we must keep these weapons out of the hands of the truly dangerous.
There is no gun debate in America, at least not amongst the public. What we do have, and what we must learn to reckon with, is a crisis of disproportionate political representation. In this, the GOP leadership — and political action groups who support it — continues to be public enemy number one. ■