You can’t be connected enough to read this blog and not have heard about the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College. I don’t think I’m at all alone in feeling like I’m suffering from learned helplessness. It’s not this particular shooting, which mightn’t have been changed by anything. But clearly, our guns laws do need to be changed. Yet we don’t do anything. Or rather, the political environment is such that the most reasonable steps to making guns less of a threat in our society are met with hysteria by the pro-gun nuts.
I know people who are gun fanciers. Most of them do not have any problem with any of the gun regulations that have been proposed in the last ten years. Yet when it comes to voting, they don’t dive into the policies. They just see who the NRA says is “evil” and who is “good,” and they vote based upon that. It doesn’t matter in the least that the “evil” candidate probably agrees with them more than the “good” candidate.
And, of course, there is the problem of voters. I’ve been seeing the “I’m NRA and I Vote!” bumper stickers since I was a kid, and it’s very true. The same thing can be said of conservatives generally. There are a lot of people who are outraged by these kinds of attacks. They answer the pollsters’ questions about common sense gun regulations. And then on election day, they don’t show up to the polls. During the Colorado recall, state senator John Morse was recalled by just 319 votes for the crime of passing hugely popular legislation.
Again: this is not about mass shootings. The mass shootings are just a reminder. There are roughly 11,000 gun homicides each year in the US. That’s 30 per day. Suicides are even worse. Over at Vox, Zack Beauchamp put together, Deaths From Gun Violence vs Deaths From Terrorism, in One Chart. It’s a boring chart. In 2001, there were four times as many Americans murdered with guns as were murdered by terrorism. But the rest of the years since have been pretty much like the last year of data (2011): 653 times as many people murdered with guns as by terrorism. Maybe that’s not a fair comparison. But if you look at firearm related death rates, the only countries worse than the US are places like Colombia and Swaziland. The closest advanced economy is Finland, with a rate of one-third ours. Ours is almost five times that of the most obvious comparison, Canada.
The question remains the same: what are we going to do about this? And, sadly, the answer is the same: nothing. There are lots of problems in America. Far more people die because of economic inequality and all the things that go along with it. People die in wars — and many other things that conservatives are far more keen on. The answer to all these things is the same: voting. If people voted as much in off-year (and off off-year) elections as they do in presidential elections, this country would be in far better shape. And it would make the Republican Party far more reasonable. We can’t be like the people in The Daily Show segment: non-voters who are slightly embarrassed with a self-deprecating chuckle. Those people should have been crimson in their public shame. (In fairness, the one guy got pretty close to crimson.)