El Paso residents grieve at memorial
This weekend, Rep. Andy Barr wrote an opinion column about what he and other Congressional Republicans are doing about gun violence. Here at the Herald-Leader, we think it’s important to let constituents know what their elected officials are doing in the often arcane business on Capitol Hill.
That doesn’t mean we agree with him.
Barr is a diligent representative, and his column touts the many things he’s doing about gun violence. He’s working on red-flag laws and school safety and efforts to improve the National Instant Background Check System, so that it actually flags people with criminal backgrounds and mental illness who shouldn’t have guns.
Unfortunately, it’s way too little and certainly way too late. What has happened to our country is in itself a mental illness, especially if the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Consider one of the bills that Barr co-sponsored: The School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act, which would authorize $2 billion over the next 10 years for two grant programs, “one to assess the physical vulnerabilities of a school building and the other to provide the hard security infrastructure upgrades necessary to mitigate the vulnerabilities identified by those risk assessments,” in his words.
This is quite literally insane. Our elected representatives want to rebuild our schools into armed fortresses instead of addressing the main issue of mass shootings: too many military-style guns in the hands of too many people. We would rather force five-year-olds into doing shooter drills on the first day of school. They will do what we tell them, too, a situation akin to the National Rifle Association and its pet politicians.
Barr would say this issue is complicated, but it’s not. No other country deals with mass shootings on the scale that the United States does, and if it happens, they act decisively, as New Zealand did.
This mindset reflects the psychotic vice-grip the NRA has held over our elected officials for too long, a choke hold that has corroded our national psyche into thinking the Second Amendment means something it certainly does not. (Grover Norquist and Wayne LaPierre are two unelected people whose positions on taxes and guns, combined with sacks of campaign cash, have done irreparable damage to this country.) San Francisco recently declared the National Rifle Association a domestic terrorist organization, and that’s what it’s become. It used to be the bastion of hunters and outdoorsmen, as columnist Mark Reese recently noted, but now it appears only to represent those who feel it’s necessary to stockpile guns in their basement to await the zombie apocalypse. Or plan a mass shooting.
This really isn’t hard. When Congress banned assault weapons between 1994 through 2004, there was a 25 percent drop in gun massacres (from eight to six) and a 40 percent drop in fatalities (from 81 to 49), according to a new study out of Stanford University. In the decade after the ban, the study noted in the New York Times, “there was a 347 percent increase in fatalities in gun massacres, even as overall violent crime continued downward.”
The only real progress appears to be coming from Republicans’ beloved free market. Walmart, site of the El Paso shooting, will stop selling ammunition for military style rifles and has asked customers not to open carry guns in their stores. In 2015, the chain stopped selling those kinds of rifles as well. Kroger, CVS and Walgreens have asked customers not to open carry even if they have permits to do so. Elected officials, trapped in the NRA noose, don’t want to help us, but perhaps private businesses will.
It makes me want to ugly-cry in frustration and I’m not the mother of a small child shot to death at Sandy Hook. How our elected representatives can live with the decisions they make just to stay in office is unimaginable. Ah, America, land of the free, until you send your child to school or walk into a Walmart, only to wonder if either of you will ever walk out again.
Linda Blackford writes columns and commentary for the Herald-Leader.