By Shane Madden
Tuesday evening, President Biden addressed the nation from the Roosevelt room. His words felt familiar. Nineteen children murdered during the last week of school, 10 days after 10 people were murdered shopping for groceries in Buffalo, New York.
To his credit, President Biden has never been shy in sharing his experience with loss, and expressed his sympathies to the victims’ families as best he could.
“To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away.” Biden said, holding back tears.
Ten years ago, then Vice President Biden addressed the nation from Sandy Hook Elementary, to offer prayers and condolences and to call on lawmakers to enact common sense gun reform. Twenty-six lives had been lost, including 20 first graders. It wasn’t the first time, but it felt like society was finally ready to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough.
In the 10 years since Sandy Hook, we have endured 2,654 mass shootings (defined as three or more victims excluding the shooter), with a death toll of 2,908 with another 11,088 sustaining injuries. That’s a mass shooting six days a week. Read more here.
Let’s not glance over the specificity of that statistic. Those are just the “mass” shootings. On average 33,000 Americans are killed by guns every year when accounting for suicides, homicides, and accidents. That’s 90 a day – more than cancer and heart disease combined.
During those same 10 years, while a few states have enacted different forms of gun laws, there has been zero meaningful federal legislation passed in effort to stop the problem, and it can be argued we’ve moved in the opposite direction. To be clear, it’s not that congress has failed to solve the problem, it’s that they haven’t tried anything at all.
It may have sounded like a recycled script, but Biden’s revamped rendition took on an angrier, more desperate tone. Exasperation in his voice, almost pleading, he pointed an accusatory finger where it firmly belongs.
“As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?”
That’s new. Usually its “thoughts and prayers” then “let it bring us together,” then finally a few moments of silence and flags at half-mast. But this time he gave the villain a name: the lobbyist. The unelected, unofficial inhabitants of Capitol Hill, bought and paid for by big businesses and meant to influence our representatives.
Lobbying cash actively funds campaigns, which means it creates policy, and since our political system is set up to allow unlimited corporate donations, it will continue to do so.
There will be no gun reform without taking on the gun lobby. No healthcare reform without taking on big pharma. There will be no change until we remove the influence of money from our politics.
Is this finally the last straw, and if not, how many more bodies will it take?
Congress has made it abundantly clear. They are there to cut taxes; their own and those of their corporate overlords, and give themselves a yearly cost of living adjustment. It is far past time for a performance review.
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