Another day, another mass shooting in the United States.
On Monday, 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard were the victims of the latest in a long string of horrific gun violence incidents. According to officials, Texas resident Aaron Alexis perched himself on the top of an atrium and began shooting at people who were eating breakfast using a shotgun.
The events are likely, for better or for worse, to bring the debate over gun control back to the table, especially now that Syria looks like it could take a backseat in the national conversation.
It likely means the Obama administration will try for the second time this year to pass meaningful gun control legislation after an unsuccessful bid to win over Congress earlier this year.
Critics of any form 0f gun control legislation are likely to cry foul over another push for gun control, accusing the president and his allies of politicizing a tragedy.
Isn’t that the point, though? Isn’t that why we sent lawmakers to Washington: to pass laws to advance the general welfare of the nation? Now is the time to have a debate over gun control.
What should Congress do, though? After all, the U.S. gun violence epidemic is incredibly complex and requires nuanced discussion on the matter. It requires discussions not only on guns themselves, but on our culture and on our pitiful state of our nation’s mental health services.
Congress isn’t known for handling complex situations or for nuance, though, so perhaps picking up where gun control talks ended last time would suffice for now: background checks.
A consistently recurring theme in each of these incidents is the mental instability of the attacker.
Take Alexis, 34, for instance. He had been treated for numerous mental health illnesses in the past, including sleeplessness, paranoia and hearing voices.
Why is that OK? Congress, with many of its members in both parties, but especially the Republican Party, completely bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association, have deemed incidents like these as unfortunate but acceptable side effects of upholding Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
That is an insult to the countless victims of gun violence and their families. It’s true that no law can prevent gun violence, but shouldn’t our elected officials at least try instead of cowering in the corner out of fear of losing campaign contributions from the NRA?
To be clear, we are not advocates of “taking everyone’s guns away,” as critics of gun control often accuse proponents of advocating for. We believe in the right to bear arms and using guns as a means of self-defense or to hunt.
But we are not in favor of anyone with a long history of mental health issues or a violent past being able to buy a weapon at a store almost as if that person were buying groceries. Stringent background checks are necessary to promote public safety, just as protecting the right to bear arms is.
It’s on us, as citizens and voters, to tell Congress to act, since many of our elected officials are too cowardly to act on their own.
Call your representative and tell them to do what’s right and pass just the most basic of gun control law, at least to start. Tell them to stop operating out of fear of NRA backlash and let them know where you stand on the issue, and maybe we can prevent the next mass shooting.