Waiting for the Next “Biggest” Mass Murder, part 1

The CDC estimates that over 33,000 people die from gun violence every year. That is 33,000+ preventable deaths.

Wednesday 2/14/18 the third largest school shooting in America this century* occurred at a High school in Parkland Florida, leaving 17 people dead and 14 more wounded. It is behind only Virginia Tech (32) and Sandy Hook (27).  

Three of the largest mass shootings in American history have occurred in the past 24 months. The largest ever mass murder (for now, at least) occurred just a few months ago, on October 1st, 2017, in Las Vegas when Stephen Paddock killed 59 people at a country music festival and wounded 500 more. The largest mass shooting prior to that, had occurred less than a year before on June 12th, 2016, at an Orlando night club when 29yo Omar Mateen left 49 people dead. In November 2017 26yo Devin Kelley walked into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX, shot and killed 26 people and wounded 10 more.

American Gun Control

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More and more people find it repugnant that the message of pro-gun/NRA cohort is to “not make it political” in the days after the tragedy. This may be because, as we all know, the public has an incredibly short attention span. An attention span that seems to be  getting even shorter since the advent of the Trump administration, due to the constant barrage of truly bizarre drama happening nearly every single day. To their credit, it was very effective to politicize the response as “being political” following the Vegas Massacre in order to stall any possible movements towards gun control legislation. By framing the debate as a battle to protect our personal FREEDOM they have continuously prevented any sensible gun control measures from moving forward.

One issue voters have held many politicians hostage. Others politicians are in the pocket of the extremely influential NRA. Last year, after the Vegas Mass Murder, the public discourse seemed to be in favor of making Bump-stocks illegal–as the smallest possible reform, but reform nonetheless. Bump-stocks are added to semi-automatic weapons to make them fully automatic. honestly, to a lay person that sounds like a no-brainer. However, once the fervor and outrage died down…so did the talk about banning bump stocks. Nothing happened.

The most popular gun control law to fail in recent history was the banning of gun sales to people who were currently on the Terrorism Watch List. That bill failed in June 2016. There was also the bipartisan bill–backed by Joe Manchin-D and Pat Toomey-R–to expand background checks and close the gun-show sales loophole, brought before congress not long after the Sandy-Hook Massacre in 2013 (some victims parents advocating for the bill were featured in the Newton documentary, 2016). It failed the Senate by racking up 46 out of the 60 votes needed.

In fact only three times in American History has congress actually passed any federal  to restriction on firearms, and in every instance congress passed gun-control laws they had a Democrat majority and president. First, congress banned concealed weapons sent through the mail in the 1927 Miller Act. Not long after, in 1934, with FDR as president and organized crime on the rise Congress passed the first Federal gun-control law in the National Firearms Act of 1934. The act did not out-right ban automatic rifles (the target at the time were Tommy Guns) but imposed a 200$ tax–3,200 adjusted for inflation–on owning one. People who violated the law by not paying the fine were subject to a now $35,000 fine and jail time. The last time Congress passed gun control was shortly after the assassinations of JFK (1963), RFK (1968), and MLK Jr (1968), in the Gun Control Act of 1968 under president Johnson. It banned gun sales to convicted felons, people who are mentally ill, and certain drug users. It set some limits on interstate gun commerce, required dealers to obtain licenses, and raised the age to purchase firearms to 21**. The Gun Control Act was enhanced in 1993 with The Brady Act under president Clinton. The Brady Act imposed a 5-day waiting period on gun sales (except for those sold at gun-shows), imposed background checks, and created the NICS.

It is much easier to enumerate the amount of times gun control legislation passed than the amount of times gun right protections were added or upheld, or the amount of gun control bills that have failed.

*The Bath School Disaster left 44 dead in 1927, thanks to the perpetrator’s homemade bombs in multiple locations.

**In 1986 congress and president Reagan passed the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act which eased the penalties created in the 1968 Act and limited federal oversight.

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