When a mentally ill ISIS supporter plows a truck into bicyclists in New York, killing eight and injuring 15, Donald Trump calls for the ending of an immigration program that has given our country hundreds of thousands of highly productive and patriotic Americans over the years.
But when mentally ill gunmen perpetrate horror after horror, all Trump and the GOP can do is ask us to pray and blame it on mental illness. Not a word about making it harder for the mentally ill to purchase guns. Nothing about prohibiting automatic rifles, expanding the national no-gun registry, prohibiting perpetrators of domestic violence and people on the government’s terror list to buy or own a gun, extending gun waiting periods and making them apply to gun shows or making people take gun tests to own a gun license.
Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Charleston, Orlando, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook. Those are some of the biggest shootings over the past few years. And so far in 2017, there have been 307 mass murders committed by firearms in the United States. Most of these were not acts of terrorism. All of them involved guns. Some of these mass murders could have been prevented by more restrictive gun laws. Others, like Las Vegas and Sandy Hook, would have been much less destructive if automatic weapons were prohibited.
Survey after survey shows that most people—and most gun owners—want greater restrictions on gun ownership. And yet, state legislatures and the Congress refuse to pass any law restricting gun ownership and in recent years sought to expand gun rights. As a group, legislators have displayed a craven disregard for life and a dismissive disrespect for voters. A persistent theme in news media coverage is the fear that candidates have of offending the voters. More often than not, however, and certainly in the case of gun control, candidates and legislators don’t care a gnat’s hindquarters about the voters’ wishes. What they care about is pleasing their corporate masters. The gun industry was one of the first industries to recognize the value of investing in the political process. It would be more accurate to write that politicians worry about what their constituencies think, and leave it to the insiders to understand that big money interests and not the voters are the constituencies being referenced.
The hard facts support gun control. While a federal law prevents federal dollars from supporting research into gun violence (yes, Congress did that!), enough research does exists to demonstrate without a doubt that the more guns in a society, the more deaths and injuries from gun violence will occur. The causes are various: self-inflicted, friendly fire, accidents, mass murders. But very few gun deaths and accidents occur in defense of life and property. The conclusion is obvious: the more we restrict guns, the fewer gun deaths and accidents we’ll have.
The facts disprove the main argument of the gun industry that owning a gun keeps you safe. You may feel safer with a gun in the house or strapped to your side, but you have actually put yourself at greater risk of injury or death.
Of course, gun ownership is not the only issue in which Trump and the GOP talk and act against the facts. On immigration, education, the environment and taxation, Trump and the GOP persist in spewing myths, lies and disproven theories.
There is a second edge to the Trump and GOP hypocrisy, which the events of the past few weeks have sharpened. When a Muslim or immigrant commit a mass murder, it’s terrorism. But when a red-blooded American commits a mass murder, it’s the act of a lone looney. Make no mistake about it: this racialization of mass murder is another attempt to distract us from the real problems. Sowing resent against Muslims and immigrants helps to create an us-and-them world in which poor and middle class white Christians learn to hate and fear people of color instead of hating and fearing the group that is really hurting them—the rich folk who want to curtail social welfare, infrastructure, healthcare and education programs that help poor and middle class white Christians more than any other group.