graphic by Yasmin Haq
There have been more mass shootings than days of the year so far in 2019. As of Oct. 15, the 288th day of the year, the number of mass shootings (according to nonprofit Gun Violence Archive’s data which categorizes a mass shooting as an incident in which at least four people are shot) in the U.S. hit a staggering 335. Data shows 601 deaths of teens ages 12-17 this year as of today.
People have been calling for new gun control laws and regulation for years. The Democratic party has rallied around the cause. Some policy changes they support include a much more extensive background check, changing the legal age to buy a gun to 21 and enacting a federal ban on assault weapons. The general theme of their goals is to expand the federal government’s power over gun laws, which is evident through the March for Our Lives website, “We have never mobilized the full might of the federal government in the fight against gun violence.”
Many Republicans do believe something needs to be done about gun laws. NRA CEO and EVP Wayne LaPierre says, “The NRA will work in good faith to pursue real solutions to the epidemic of violence in America.” Their official stance on guns is that they want Americans to be able to “defend themselves, their families and their communities.” Just because the NRA and most Republicans support Americans being able to own a gun doesn’t mean they support violence, murder and mass shootings. Many support red flag laws, which allow police or family members to petition a state court to order the removal of a firearm from a person who may be dangerous, and legislation that intensifies background checks.
The foundation of the Republican party lies almost entirely in individual freedoms and a smaller federal government. These principles directly correlate to general party attitude about gun control. The history of the party shows a constant support for strict interpretation of the Constitution, and many plainly cite the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, as a reasoning for gun rights. There may be Republicans who support gun reform, but they don’t support the federal government’s power increasing. If state legislations created gun control laws, there would be less opposition from the Republican party.
The more conservative viewpoint on gun rights is slightly different. The basis of conservative ideology is the preservation of tradition, and many people view owning guns as an American tradition as well as a right. Many ‘red’ states that fight for gun rights wield heavy populations that hunt and shoot recreationally and believe in owning guns for personal protection. They believe it’s unfair for that to be taken away from them, which is understandable especially taking into consideration this graph from Gun Violence Archive, which shows that Midwestern states like Montana that fight hard for gun rights have seen far fewer shooting incidents than the east coast, where a large portion of the population is Democratic. This graph illustrates why attitude toward gun control is so different between parties and therefore between different regions – because they see gun use in such a different light.
President Donald Trump has been historically against the subject of gun reform until recent conversations with senators Pat Toomey (Republican), Chris Murphy (Democrat) and Joe Manchin (moderate). The ideology-spanning trio have formed a strong bond regarding gun reform and have worked hard to persuade Trump directly of their main goal to improve background checks.
The coalition is a perfect example of finding common ground and working together to get legislation passed, and they have criticized Democrats like presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke for making partisan statements such as saying the government should issue a collection of all assault weapons. However, despite the progress they’ve made, their work is being shut down by the current impeachment process, which sidelines all other legislation in Congress.
Despite the prevention of legislative progress because of the impeachment, these senators’ efforts to make change happen by uniting political parties is important work that I think has the best chance at making a difference through compromise in our government today regarding issues like gun control.
Being able to see both sides of an argument is a vital skill in life and especially in government, but it is even more important when considering an issue as urgent as gun control. If we can’t put our differences aside to make this country safer, think about how many lives will continue to be lost every day just because of inability to compromise. It’s really awful to think about how many have lost loved ones because of political partisanship and misunderstanding of party ideology.