A week ago today, I woke up, like the rest of the world, to the news of Orlando. I didn’t really feel surprised. I think we’ve stopped feeling surprise at these kinds of stories. They’re happening too often. What I did feel was sad and hopeless.
We’ve become resigned to the fact that nothing will actually change after this. This semi-regular horror is just the way of the world, it seems. Our new normal.
But why is it that 1 man can kill 49 people and injure more than 50 more others and we consider that normal? That it’s semi-regular? Why can’t we fix this? Why can’t we even talk about fixing it?
That is what Senator Chris Murphy spent 15 hours talking about on the floor of the Senate Wednesday night.
At the end of his filibuster, the Senate agreed to vote on some gun control bills, aimed to stop terrorists from purchasing guns.
President Obama explained why he thought a bill like this was necessary at a PBS Town Hall just few weeks ago:
“I just came from a meeting today in the Situation Room in which I got people who we know have been on ISIL Web sites, living here in the United States, U.S. citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun. This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer. And if he wants to walk in to a gun store or a gun show right now and buy as much — as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing’s prohibiting him from doing that, even though the FBI knows who that person is.”
The bill in question is being referred to as “No Fly, No Buy,” meaning that if someone is on the No-Fly List they also shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. The NRA issued its own statement on this issue this week, stating:
“The NRA believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period. Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing. If an investigation uncovers evidence of terrorist activity or involvement, the government should be allowed to immediately go to court, block the sale, and arrest the terrorist. At the same time, due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watchlist to be removed.”
This bill was introduced a few months ago and the argument was about due process. Many Senators were concerned about how to protect the second amendment rights of citizens who may unfairly end up on the so-called “No Buy” list, but were not actually terrorists. That seems like a healthy conversation to have: how to protect the public good while safeguarding personal freedoms.
Except they didn’t have that argument, and the bill didn’t go anywhere.
This is why we haven’t made any progress curbing gun violence. We don’t reach solutions, we drop bills. We don’t have civil debates, we stop talking. We don’t discuss our options, we ignore problems.
Since 1996, the Center for Disease Control hasn’t even been able to research gun violence or anything that could lead to gun control. Technically, President Obama lifted the research ban in 2012, shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting, but fear of funding cuts from Congress meant the CDC still hasn’t conducted any gun violence research. The American Medical Association announced last Tuesday that they are calling gun violence a public health crisis and will be lobbying Congress to lift the ban on gun control research.
Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on four different bills concerning background checks on gun purchases. And while it feels like a victory that these bills are being debated, the overarching assumption is that they won’t pass, and will probably die in the Senate.
I don’t know when we’re going to decide that we’ve had enough. That people’s lives are important enough to at least try to curb gun violence, to pass a bill, to do something.
At least this time, we’re having a conversation. We’re having a debate. But it would be nice, for once, to have some action.