GOP indifference to gun violence stifles action

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Friday, June 4, is National Gun Violence Awareness Day. This weekend, opponents of gun violence will wear orange to remember the thousands of innocent people who die needless deaths every year.

Recent tragedies demonstrate the urgent need for recognition of the victims and the imperative for Congress to take action to end the carnage.

This week in Miami, gunmen killed two people and wounded 22. Just days before that a shooter killed 10 people at a transit station in San Jose, Calif. These two tragic incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. Already this year, more than 18,000 Americans have died from gun violence and 15,000 more people have suffered gun injuries. 

The San Jose and Miami murders received some national attention, which quickly disappeared into the media maw. Many of the individual shootings get a brief mention in local media but fade away while the mourning of friends and family continues unabated. 

If this level of gun violence continues, the total number of gun deaths through the year could come to more than 40,000. Sadly, there has been little government action to stem the tide of death and destruction.

Innocent children as well as adults suffer. More than 100 children under the age of 11 have died from gun violence in the first five months of 2021. There were massacres of young students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018.

Democrats have tried to stop the slaughter.

Early in April, the Biden administration announced six executive actions to reduce gun violence. The Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to eliminate the loopholes that allow buyers to purchase guns without background checks. 

But Republican indifference seems to follow Democratic action. 

The fate of the House bill faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate where Republicans are wary of any action — however sensible — to restrict gun ownership. The potential GOP threat of a filibuster to block movement in the upper chamber could mean another year of inaction while thousands of more blameless victims of gun violence perish.

While Republicans in the Senate aren’t signaling support for any attempt to reduce gun violence at the national level, there has been action in GOP dominated states to make guns more readily available. Texas has a new law that allows residents of the Lone Star State to carry guns without licenses. West Virginia just acted to solve one problem by making another worse by giving away guns in a lottery to people who get COVID-19 vaccinations.  

The epidemic of gun violence may not have galvanized Senate Republicans to action but has had an impact on the American people.

Almost half of the public sees gun violence as a very big problem according to a Pew Center Research national poll conducted in April. The only problem that significantly worries Americans more is health care affordability. Concern about gun violence is in the same ballpark as distress about the COVID-19 outbreak, immigration, the size of the federal government deficit and violent crime. 

Anxiety over the level of gun violence fuels the public desire for restrictions that will reduce the casualties in the senseless slaughter. 

Eight in 10 Americans favor background checks for gun purchases. The failure of Congress to institute something as basic as a universal background check without loopholes is a symbol of the failure of the political system to respond to the public desire for safety. 

At least six out of every 10 people favor banning assault style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. 

There is even a fair amount of grassroots GOP support for these initiatives to reduce gun violence. Seven in 10 Republicans favor background checks and about four out of every 10 Republicans support the bans on assault weapons and high load magazines.

But the indifference at the elite level of the GOP about the trail of death and destruction from gun violence is breathtaking and heartbreaking.

All Americans get from GOP leaders are thoughts and prayers after every mass shooting. Talk is cheap. Thoughts and prayers are fine, but they don’t reduce the massive body count. Government action at the national, state and local level is the only thing that will make a real difference to protect the public.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Deadline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.

Tags anti-gun violence Background checks Democrats gun legislation gun restrictions gun violence Mass shootings Republicans Second Amendment

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