It could be a matter of the overabundance and availability of guns in America, or it could be the near complete absence of mental health services to the public, but the once seldom and shocking incidents of school shootings have been seemingly been on the uptick, both in the number and frequency. In the first two weeks of the new year, there were a total of seven reported school shootings nationwide, with additional reports coming over the past week of at least two more.
Immediately following the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, a widespread public outcry over gun violence sparked a debate which many believed would lead to common sense gun controls. Since Sandy Hook, not only has gun control legislation failed, but it’s in many cases been rolled back at the behest of powerful gun lobbies, such as the NRA. In point of fact, overall gun control efforts have declined since Sandy Hook, with the standard NRA rhetoric of ‘guns making people safer’ leading the charge against efforts to stem what is a rising tide of gun violence.
Since 1968, there have been more American deaths related to civilian gun violence than have died in all of the wars the nation has fought since first winning our independence from Britain. And with the US leading the advanced world in gun related deaths by a margin of 3 to 1 in some cases, one would think that especially after the brutal and tragic mass murder of school children, some action to curb the circulation and now seemingly routine travesties related to guns, would be taken by those in power.
Yet this unfortunately is not the case. With the NRA and gun lobby spending millions both on direct lobbying as well as public relations crusades to elevate the presumed “right” to own a high power, high capacity weapon over that of the general public’s right to live in peace without fear of yet another mass shooting, political will to enact gun control has effectively been stymied throughout nearly every level of government. Doubling down on their pro-gun, anti-public safety position, the NRA and their affiliated organizations throughout the country have even taken steps to put more guns in schools, rather than supporting efforts to keep them out.
Perhaps as a result of these lobbying efforts, or perhaps simply just the latest instance of simple minded partisan enthusiasm, many conservative lawmakers and candidates have even taken on eliminating existing gun controls as central platforms in their efforts to avoid talking about jobs, health care or infrastructure. Falling back on party lines which proclaim that mental health is to blame for mass shootings and not guns, many of these same legislators have moved to cut off mental health services, perhaps as a means to perpetuate an issue that they cherish as the centerpiece of their campaigns in lieu of other, more comprehensive policy platforms.
Regardless of the politics and rhetoric involved however, the instances of mentally ill people shooting and killing innocent people with what are generally legally acquired firearms continue to unfurl in the public view. Though hardliners in the “gun-rights” set will often attempt to frame the debate as an all-or-nothing effort to do nothing short of ban and confiscate firearms, more rational voices continue to call for common sense controls. In point of fact, polls consistently show that even among gun owners, the notion of mandatory background checks for firearms purchases enjoys a vast majority of support.
Too see a comprehensive graph on gun deaths since Newtown, look at the data Slate.com has compiled here.
h/t: Think Progress