The battle over guns and the rights surrounding them has been long waged and shows no signs of stopping. The Supreme Court has handed out several decisions on what the Second Amendment means, most recently addressing the constitutional right in 2008 and 2010. The decisions in those cases affirmed the right to bear arms by individuals for self-protection, as opposed to the collective right endowed to the military. Perhaps because of those rulings, we have seen gun violence – including individual, gang-related, drive-by and mass shootings, ravage this nation at rates exponentially higher than other developed nations in the world. But the time for reform has never come. Legislators torn between what most of the nation knows, and pressure from the powerful gun lobby have failed to take action to prevent the types of loss that can rarely be explained.
Back in 2011, when Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in the head, suffering debilitating injuries that stripped her of her duties and since created a long road to progress, many people thought that reform was imminent. But legislators showed that even when it was one of their own, a colleague they worked with day in and day out, they still weren’t willing to do what is right. One year later, when an elementary school became the site of a mass shooting and 20 precious, innocent children and six adults were shot, the world was watching and anticipating reform.
Two bills were introduced that made it to the floor of the Senate. The Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, and the Toomey-Manchin Amendment to expand background checks on gun purchases were both defeated in April 2014. Between 80-90 percent of people support background checks – to prevent people who are mentally ill from buying guns and committing a heinous act like a mass shooting. But instead, the vote to pass any type of reform was short and we continued to see people killed senselessly no matter where they were – in the movies, in church, at their jobs. You name it and there almost isn’t a safe space for people to go.
In 2015 alone, there have been 45 school shootings. That doesn’t account for other types of gun violence that kill people every day, nor does it take into account the other mass shootings like in Charleston, SC, where nine people were killed in a church, or Lafayette, LA, where 3 people were killed in a movie theatre. And yet, somehow, the debate wages on.
If there are no safe places in this nation to walk freely, how can we continue talking in red or blue rhetoric? If this is not about guns, then what is it about and how can we solve it? Is it about the sickness of hatred and divide that live on in this country, killing us viciously? If we cannot come together to protect each other in the most sacred and what are intended to be the safest places in this country, then can we really say that we stand for and love the collective that we call our country? As people say they care about the lives of unborn babies and fight hard to legislate a woman’s body, they turn their eyes and offer nothing but empty apologies when there is a mass shooting. All the while, people who want to fight against mass shooting remain silent when it comes to issues of illegal guns in communities where the people may not look like them, but bleed just the same.
The President gave an impassioned speech last week and his frustration is shared by many. This is not about keeping people from their right to bear arms, this is about allowing people to have their most basic right of life. We cannot wait any longer for never to become now. We have to solve the issue of gun violence. It can’t wait.
Janaye Ingram is the National Executive Director of National Action Network (NAN) and oversees NAN’s action agenda and legislative advocacy work under Founder and President, Rev. Al Sharpton. In this role, Ingram focuses on issues such as education, criminal justice, housing, technology, economic development and healthcare, among others.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty
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