One month ago, America was blindsided and dismayed by the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, which took place at a concert in Las Vegas, Nevada, ending the lives of fifty-eight innocent people. This act of terror was one in a long list of horrific instances of gun violence that the United States has been inundated with over the last several decades. On Sunday, November 5th, that list grew even longer.
Devin Kelley, a 26-year-old former Air Force service member, walked into a church in small town Texas clad full tactical gear, wielding a legally purchased and modified AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, and killed at least twenty-six people in what many, according to witness’s accounts, estimated to be fifteen seconds.
This sort of tremendously obscene occurrence is no longer in the realm of uncommon or shocking, or even unbelievable. It’s a testament to America. But not America’s boundless sense of freedom or flourishing environment of opportunity and prosperity. It’s a testament to our politics; our unceasing, relentless party-line divides, our inherent stubbornness towards cooperation or sought-out resolution, our stark inability to unanimously diagnose and cure a problem.
The problem at hand, and the one that has always been at hand, is the issue of gun control. For decades, Democrats on Capitol Hill have been raising awareness to the notion that the United States has placed itself into a very precarious position on the issue of gun control, thanks in part to the Supreme Court.
In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment is a right provided to the individual for self-preservation and preservation of the home. The court used this ruling to trickle down its protection to the states in 2010. While gun laws were already in effect at the state level long before these rulings, many states, such as Texas, began the implementation of increasingly lax gun reform following these landmark decisions.
In 2015, Texas’s state legislature passed new laws allowing for open carry and concealed carry on college campuses. This year, the legislature voted to decrease the cost of obtaining a gun license from $140 to $40. All of this, while refusing to pass laws that would implement background checks or ban high-capacity firearms.
And these laws do nothing to nip the growing concern of gun violence in the bud. In fact, these statutes increase gun ownership. According to the American Journal for Public Health, states with increased gun ownership – like the state of Texas – have disproportionately larger amounts of gun deaths than states with less gun ownership.
Now, this may lead one to ponder over why there is a distinct, noticeable lack of conservative voices on Capitol Hill vocalizing their clear, affirmative support for initiatives like strengthening background checks, doing away with underregulated gun shows, and lessening the variety of weapons made available to the general public. The answer to these ponderings is the National Rifle Association.
While the NRA released a statement in which they devoted themselves to consider supporting a ban on modifications that allow for semiautomatic weapons to fire at automatic rates, called “bump stocks”, they are far from comfortable with cluttering their controversial industry with regulations on firearms that would make it harder for their pockets to be filled with billions of dollars; those dollars which they need in order to bankroll Republican congressional leaders’ election campaigns.
Among these leaders is Senator Jon Cornyn, a senior United States Senator from Texas, who has received $28,750 in campaign contributions from the NRA since his first Senate campaign in 2002, and has since received an A-rating from the organization for his “proven record of support for the Second Amendment.” And what a record it is. Since his senatorial tenure began, Cornyn has voted against banning high capacity gun magazines, voted to allow guns onto Amtrak trains and to exempt gun manufacturers from gun-related lawsuits, and has also once cosponsored a bill that would dispatch with gun registration requirements in Washington, D.C. This is only a taste of his gun agenda.
He is not unlike his fellow GOP colleagues in Congress, who receive an aggregate of millions of dollars in campaign funding and praise from the NRA for continuing the push for looser gun laws; gun laws that allow for shootings like the one in Sutherland Springs, Texas to take place.
Meanwhile, Democratic senators, like Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, are trying to make Congress face gun violence head-on. Senator Murphy issued a statement on Sunday afternoon, putting much-needed, yet redundant pressure on his congressional counterparts, stating that “[my GOP colleagues] need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets.”
But his GOP colleagues have already measured that support’s worth, and it’s apparently worth more than the very present gun hazards regular Americans are forced to endure. At the cost of fifty-eight lives on October 1st and at least twenty-six on November 5th – not to mention the tens of thousands of other gun-related deaths and injuries that have occurred in the United States this year alone – Capitol Hill Republicans like Senator John Cornyn have no wish to do wrong by the gun industry, to whom they have sold their political souls in exchange for money-funneling their campaigns.
So they issued their obligatory condolence tweets on Sunday and Monday, laden with “thoughts and prayers” and “senseless tragedy” sentiments. And on Tuesday, they stepped back inside the Senate chamber, with no intention of preventing the next mass shooting from penetrating the guise of safety that Americans love to indulge themselves in.
Gun control is a serious and poignant subject, yet there are those who see it as nothing more than a peculiar enigma, floating in a space of otherness that is to be left on untouched and untainted by pesky regulation; regulation that stands to save lives.