“Tim Kaine has a background of steel — just ask the NRA,” said Hillary Clinton in introducing her vice presidential pick in Florida today. It was her first limelight moment since the Republican National Convention, and we’re encouraged that she used part of it to focus on gun control.
The nation desperately needs to hear an honest debate about gun control at the presidential level. Democrats and Republicans are worlds apart on the issue. We got a striking picture of where Republicans stand at their convention in Cleveland, where delegates toted firearms into the Quicken Loans Arena like little kids showing off their toys. The party’s platform not only ignores the nation’s mounting toll of horrific mass shootings, but also reads as if the National Rifle Association wrote it — which might very well be the case.
In addition to Clinton’s remarks today, there was more good news for gun-control advocates. A new Associated Press-GfK poll found support for restrictions on gun ownership now stands at a two-thirds majority — the highest level since the poll started asking the question in 2013, about 10 months after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
According to the new poll, majorities favor nationwide bans on semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets. By a 55 percent to 43 percent margin, respondents to the poll said laws limiting gun ownership do not infringe on the Second Amendment. Strong majorities from both parties said they support background checks for people buying firearms at gun shows and through private sales.
In addition, they back the commonsense banning of gun sales to people on the federal terrorist watch list.
But the poll also found widespread pessimism that elected officials will act. It’s incumbent on Clinton and other Democrats running for office in November to prove the public wrong. They must stand up forcefully and stand down the NRA’s propaganda machine.
The NRA maintains that more guns make people safer, but the opposite is true. The U.S. has more guns per capita than any other nation in the “developed” world and more firearm deaths per capita to show for all those weapons. Americans are 10 times likelier to be killed by firearms than citizens of any other developed nation, according to a study that appeared in the American Journal of Medicine. Yet Americans own virtually one gun for every man, woman and child in the country.
Recent gun-violence cases further undermine the NRA’s distortion. When a sniper opened fire on armed Dallas police officers earlier this month, their guns did nothing to protect them. But imagine how many more casualties there would have been if everyone in the crowd had been armed to the hilt and shooting willy-nilly to stop an assailant who was not even visible.
A gunman managed to kill three Baton Rouge police officers and wound three others, despite the fact that his victims were both armed and trained to use their weapons. An armed security guard was working at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando when 49 customers were killed. The guard exchanged fire with the attacker but to no avail. And officials said that more firearms in the nightclub would have resulted in more innocent deaths during the hysterical melee the first shootings triggered.
In all of those cases, the attackers had the advantages of surprise and powerful weapons. We can’t stop the former, but we can curb the latter with sensible gun restrictions. We need laws designed to benefit society rather than the profits of weapons and munitions manufacturers.
Americans don’t balk at the myriad other restrictions they live with, many of which are ridiculous and unfair. Citizens don’t become unhinged at having to undergo minor security checks to buy decongestants. They don’t send death threats to opticians in protest of bogus laws forcing contact lens wearers to undergo annual eye exams, whether they need them or not. Most citizens accept laws against littering, urinating on sidewalks and coming to a complete halt at stop signs even when no traffic is present.
Yet the NRA has trained millions of Americans to go full freak at potentially life-saving restrictions, such as preventing terrorists from buying assault weapons and prohibiting the sale of body-armor-piercing bullets. Obviously, sanity is being set aside when it comes to this issue and tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year as a result.
Beginning now, you must force candidates for offices at all levels to explain their positions on gun control. Let them know that in order to earn your vote, they must support sensible gun control that does not violate the 2nd Amendment but can reduce the shootings.
We’re finally in a place where Americans are fed up with the nation’s gun obsession. We have a presidential candidate who plans to challenge the NRA from the top of the ticket, but it’s up to voters to put pressure on local and state officials.
Together, let’s imagine a nation where we don’t awake every morning to headlines of another slaughter, where we don’t live every day with the fear that we — or someone we love — will be next. Then take that vision to your candidates and ultimately to the ballot box.