Do Republicans Really Want To End School Shootings? Not That Much
Before the next mass shooting, which is likely to occur tomorrow, someone should mention what is most obvious and disturbing about America's endless gun safety debate. Congressional Republicans are unwilling to restrict their constituents' access to assault weapons, even though they know that means many more innocent children (and adults) will die.
Or to put it even more bluntly, Republicans block sensible gun legislation because they are perfectly willing to sacrifice little kids in order to protect the most extreme interpretation of "Second Amendment rights." When Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA). asked at a recent hearing whether his Republican colleagues were there to protect "the kids or the killers," they fumed in outrage. But they had no honest answer to his question.
Instead, Republicans offer a continuous stream of irrelevant and pointless "solutions" that will do nothing to stem the tidal wave of bloodshed. They yammer about mental health, as if they've ever been willing to fund adequate access to psychological services — and as if the mentally ill are a principal source of gun violence, which is assuredly untrue. They vow to "harden schools," and to check the locks on school doors every week, as if that would prevent a shooter from getting inside — or stop a shooter who lurks outside a school building when classes end.
They will pontificate ad nauseam about anything and everything except the kind of gun laws that could mitigate the slaughter.
While the Republicans and their sponsors in the gun lobby try to distract us from plain facts, the prevention of mass shootings is not mysterious or arcane. Exceptionally clear data show that banning the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines tends to prevent mass shootings.
When President Bill Clinton and congressional Democrats passed an assault-weapons ban in 1994, mass shootings declined; when that ban expired 10 years later, mass shootings increased. Millions of those weapons of war were already in private hands when the ban commenced, so the decline in mass shootings was gradual — but when the ban ended, skyrocketing sales of the AR-15 and similar rifles initiated a very robust resumption of carnage.
Last year, a team of researchers at Northwestern University's School of Medicine again examined the history of the assault-weapons ban. They eliminated a source of confusion about the law by looking only at mass shootings — incidents resulting in the deaths of four or more people — rather than all gun deaths, as prior studies had done.
According to Dr. Lori Ann Post, who led that 2021 study (and who happens to belong to the National Rifle Association), their review found that "if you prevent the access to assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and semi-automatic or rapid-fire guns, it prevents the actual incident itself... people don't even go out and do a mass shooting in the absence of an assault rifle."
The study found that during the ban, its provisions prevented at least 11 mass shootings and that had it continued, another 30 such incidents would have been prevented. Post also remarked that "purchase of the assault weapon is often the final step in the preparation and execution of a mass shooting," an observation confirmed again this week when a perp bought his AR-15 just hours before going into a Tulsa hospital to kill his doctor and three others.
The Republican deniers may scoff at the 1994 ban, citing cherry-picked data to claim it didn't work. They may point out, correctly, that mass shootings represent a very small percentage of gun deaths. But in the meantime, we have seen several major industrial countries that legislated weapons bans after horrific school shootings and similar bloody tragedies.
The results of that gigantic, worldwide social experiment are undeniable: Those countries suffer a tiny fraction of the mass shootings that now occur here constantly.
Bear in mind that other industrialized nations endure all the same conflicts that afflict us. Their populations include platoons of alienated boys, frustrated men, hateful racists and seething lunatics of all sorts. Yet in those places, dangerous men don't have easy access to weapons that kill many people very quickly.
So, let's stop pretending that we don't know how to stop mass shootings — and let's also stop pretending that Republican legislators who oppose gun regulation actually care about saving our kids from those atrocities. They don't.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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