Enough is Clearly Enough6/7/22
The Republican Party and the Democratic Party have each played critical roles in America for a very long time. It is a balancing act, if you will, that has by and large kept the country moving forward without veering too far in one direction or the other. But the Republican Party’s relentless march to the right threatens this historical balance.
That rightward move is clearly evident in Republicans’ growing resistance to gun regulation. In a 1990 Gallup poll, 78 percent of Americans wanted stricter gun laws. In a recent poll, however, that number had dropped to 52 percent. Among Republicans, only 21 percent of them now favor stricter laws, compared to 71 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Independents.
In the 10 years since the mass shooting of elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut, Republican Senators have refused to consider measures to control firearms—not even the assault weapons used so frequently now. The most recent tragic events in Buffalo and Uvalde make it clear that minorities and schoolchildren are paying the price for this refusal.
Like many mass school shooters before them, the 18-19-year-olds who carried out these most recent atrocities used AR-15 style rifles, which they bought legally. This raises a critical question: Who should have access to such powerful weapons?
The level of gun violence we endure is uniquely American, as is our level of gun ownership. It is estimated that there are some 400 million guns in America. Yet as the recent Gallup poll shows, most Republicans say access should remain unfettered, while a vast majority of Democrats believe guns need to be controlled for the sake of public safety.
The Republican position has hardened over the years to the point that gun ownership and liberty are seen as inextricable and that any move to control weapons is an effort to take guns away and leave gun owners defenseless. That rock-hard attitude flows from the Republicans’ interpretation of the second
amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but this view was not shared by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in 2008, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. [It is] not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose” (D.C. vs. Heller).
In 2018, following the mass shooting of high school students in Parkland, FL, thousands of people gathered in Washington—and in 880 other towns and cities in the United States and around the world—to march in support of gun-control legislation.
Following that march, renowned former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote an essay in the New York Times. It was illustrated by a photograph of an AR-15 assault rifle juxtaposed with a musket from the 18th century, the weapon of choice of our American Revolution.
“These demonstrations demand our respect. They reveal the broad public support for legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings of schoolchildren and others in our society,” he wrote. “That support is a clear sign to lawmakers to enact legislation prohibiting civilian ownership of semiautomatic weapons, increasing the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 years old, and establishing more effective and more lasting reform.”
So here we are, four years later with many more dead; and firearm fatalities have become the single largest cause of death for our children and young adults.
Another march is scheduled in Washington; but there are signs that some Senators, both Republicans and Democrats, are talking. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-CT, who has been working hard ever since the Sandy Hook tragedy, has expressed cautious optimism.
“My hope is that this time is different,” he said. “I get it. Every single time after one of these mass shootings, there’s talks in Washington, and they never succeed. But there are more Republicans interested in talking about finding a path forward this time than I have seen since Sandy Hook.”
Let’s all hope that these senators will heed Justices Scalia and Stevens and move forward with legislation to get this epidemic of gun violence under control.
Bob Potter is a member of the Talbot County Democratic Forum and a resident of Easton