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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Why can’t America do anything to stop mass shootings? | US gun control | The Guardian

Why can’t America do anything to stop mass shootings?

US flags, across New York bay from the Statue of Liberty, fly at half-mast at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, as a mark of respect for the victims of the Texas school shooting.
US flags, across New York bay from the Statue of Liberty, fly at half-mast at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, as a mark of respect for the victims of the Texas school shooting. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images

"Joe Biden’s condolences to the community of Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two adults were killed in a shooting at Robb elementary school on Tuesday, also came with a demand for action.

“Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen?” Biden said at the White House on Tuesday evening. “It’s time to turn this pain into action. For every parent, for every citizen in this country, we have to make it clear to every elected official in this country: it’s time to act.”

But despite hundreds of mass shootings unfolding in America every year, Congress has repeatedly failed to pass major gun-control legislation. The hurdles to enacting stricter gun laws in the US are numerous and significant, but activists say they will not give up until change is made.

How often are mass shootings happening in the US?

This year, 213 mass shootings, defined as incidents in which at least four people were shot or killed, have already occurred in America, according to the Gun Violence Archive. In 2021, 692 mass shootings were recorded, in comparison to 610 over the course of 2020.


The US has already seen other devastating examples of mass shootings this month. Less than two weeks before the shooting in Uvalde, a gunman opened fire at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. He fatally shot 10 people, most of them African American.

What policies have been proposed to address mass shootings?

Gun control advocates have outlined an extensive and specific plan to lower the number of deaths caused by firearms in the US. Those policies include mandating background checks for all gun purchases, including those overseen by unlicensed sellers online or at gun shows, and enforcing a waiting period after someone buys a firearm.

Advocates have also called for expanding the restrictions on people who can legally acquire guns. They say abusive dating partners, those convicted of hate crimes and people with mental illness who pose a safety risk, among others, should be barred from buying firearms. Some have proposed prohibiting gun purchases by people under 21, which may have prevented the 18-year-old shooter in Uvalde from acquiring his weapons.

Some states have already enacted stricter gun laws, but federal legislation would strengthen restrictions nationwide.

Do Americans support stricter gun laws?

There is broad support in the US for certain policies championed by gun-control advocates. According to a Morning Consult/Politico survey taken last year, 84% of American voters support universal background checks for gun purchases.

But opinions are more varied when Americans are asked about their thoughts on stricter gun laws in general. A November poll conducted by Gallup found that 52% of Americans support stricter gun control, which marked the lowest rating on the question since 2014. Support for a ban on handguns also hit a new low in 2021, with just 19% of Americans telling Gallup that they would be in favor of such a policy.


Some of that hesitation may stem from the fact that tens of millions of Americans own guns themselves. Four in 10 Americans live in a household with a gun, while 30% say they personally own one, according to a 2021 survey by Pew Research Center.

Has Congress tried to enact stricter gun laws before?

Yes, Democrats in Congress have repeatedly pushed to strengthen gun laws that could help lower the number of mass shootings in America. Most notably, Congress tried to pass a compromise bill to expand background checks in 2013, months after the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. That bill failed to overcome a Senate filibuster, as most Republicans and a handful of Democrats opposed the legislation.

After the bill was defeated, then President Barack Obama delivered a fiery speech blaming the failure on the National Rifle Association, which vehemently opposed the legislation and vowed to campaign against any senator supporting it.

“Instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill,” Obama said at the time. “But we can do more if Congress gets its act together.”

What is the path forward for enacting gun-control legislation?

The Democrat-controlled House has already passed bills to expand background checks to all firearm sales or transfers and close the so-called “Charleston loophole”. That loophole, which would increase the amount of time that licensed gun sellers must wait to receive a completed background check before transferring a gun to an unlicensed buyer, allowed a white shooter to target a historically Black church in Charleston in 2015.

But those House-passed bills currently have very little chance of passing in the evenly divided Senate. Republican senators are likely to filibuster any proposed gun-control legislation, and Democrats do not have the 60 votes necessary to advance those bills. The Democratic senator Joe Manchin also made it clear on Tuesday that he would not support amending the filibuster to pass a gun-control bill, meaning Democrats do not have the votes to create a carveout to the rule.

Acknowledging this reality, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said on Wednesday that it was unlikely the upper chamber would soon vote on the House-passed bills. “I believe that accountability votes are important,” Schumer said, “But sadly, this isn’t a case of the American people not knowing where their senators stand. They know.”

That doesn’t mean Democrats are giving up on their efforts to strengthen gun laws. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who represents the Sandy Hook community and has fiercely criticized congressional inaction on gun control, said voters have a chance in November to oust Republicans who oppose reform.

“I’m going to try all day today to try to find some compromise, but this is ultimately up to voters,” Murphy told CNN on Wednesday. “If [candidates] support the current law, if they don’t support reform [instead], then don’t send them back to Congress.”

Why can’t America do anything to stop mass shootings? | US gun control | The Guardian

On 2nd anniversary of Floyd’s death, fading momentum for police reform

On 2nd anniversary of Floyd’s death, fading momentum for police reform

A memorial stands at what is now known as George Perry Floyd Square on May 25, 2022, in Minneapolis. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

“MINNEAPOLIS — When Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd last year, cries of joy erupted outside the courthouse where the former Minneapolis police officer stood trial. Many greeted the rare conviction in a police brutality case with a collective exhale of relief, optimistic that the historic moment for racial justice would help heal a city still on edge from the trauma of Floyd’s killing and the fiery unrest that followed.

But as residents here gathered Wednesday to mark the second anniversary of Floyd’s death, that sense of hope has been replaced by disappointment that the demand for police reform that sent millions of protesters into the streets two summers ago is fading.

At the makeshift memorial marking the south Minneapolis intersection where Floyd died, a 25-year-old Black woman who spoke on the condition of anonymity citing concerns about her safety lamented that police across the country continue to go unpunished for killing people of color.

“Enough is enough,” the woman said as a steady stream of people stopped to pay respects at the painting of an angel on the asphalt where Floyd took his final breaths. “I can’t even say it’s time that we get justice because I know we’ll never get it.”

That sense of futility has only grown in Minneapolis, where residents remain deeply divided over the future of public safety despite widespread calls for police reform in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D), who holds administrative control over the police, has enacted numerous reforms to rein in a department long accused of racism and excessive force against people of color — including a ban on chokeholds and limits on traffic stops that predominantly targeted Black residents. He also promised tougher discipline for bad officers.

But a recent state investigation found the Minneapolis police continued to engage in “discriminatory, race-based policing” — targeting and using force on Black people at a higher rate than Whites. The report said the department routinely failed to hold its officers accountable for bad behavior, despite the mayor’s promised reforms.

Minneapolis voters last fall rejected a ballot initiative that would have replaced the police department with a new department of public safety — a vote deeply influenced by rising crime in the city and fears that the department, which has struggled to respond to basic 911 calls due to hundreds of officer departures, could plunge further into crisis.

Since Floyd’s death, two other Black men have been killed by Minneapolis police — adding to the list of Black men, including Daunte Wright and Winston Smith, killed by other law enforcement in the Twin Cities in the last two years.

That includes the fatal shooting of Amir Locke, who was killed in February as officers executed a no-knock warrant inside a downtown Minneapolis apartment even though Frey claimed to have banned no-knock warrants in the city.

Locke was not the target of the warrant, even though police initially described him as a “suspect.” Locke’s death, which resulted in no charges against the officers involved, sparked fresh protests in the city. One demonstrator carried a sign that read: “What changed after George Floyd? NOTHING.”

A similar sense of dismay played out this week in other parts of the country, where protests fueling the nation’s racial reckoning two years ago have been followed by headlines of other fatal police encounters involving people of color.

In Grand Rapids, Mich., where tens of thousands of people took to the streets after Floyd’s death, tensions remain high after the fatal police shooting of Patrick Lyoya during an April traffic stop.

A prosecutor is still determining whether to charge Grand Rapids Police Officer Christopher Schurr, who remains on paid leave. Schurr allegedly shot Lyoya in the back of the head during a struggle after he pulled the man over for a license plate violation. Lyoya’s death has revived complaints of a history of harassment and racist behavior from Grand Rapids officers toward Black residents.

On Tuesday, “Justice for Patrick Lyoya” demonstrators for the third time in a month interrupted a city commission meeting, pressing the mayor and other city officials on why charges have not yet been filed in the case. Some highlighted the speed with which Chauvin was charged with murder and jailed less than a week after Floyd’s killing.

John Williamson, a White man who lives in the same neighborhood where Lyoya lived and has helped organize protests over his death, called the evidence against Schurr “indisputable.”

“It feels like our voices are falling on deaf ears,” Williamson said. “The police are bringing violence into our community. If they will not be held accountable for the most egregious execution by a police officer — if Derek Chauvin will get arrested, but Christopher Schurr will not — the city will crack in half.”

In New York City, where police came under fire for their brutal tactics toward racial justice demonstrators in 2020, many of the promised reforms in response to Floyd’s death have not come to pass — including increased transparency about officer misconduct. Meanwhile, many of the colorful murals of Floyd that once dotted the city have been painted over.

“It’s been two years, and nothing has changed,” said Terrell Harper, a Brooklyn activist and one of the organizers of a Wednesday protest in Floyd’s memory.

In Minneapolis, the city prepared to unveil a sign renaming the block along Chicago Avenue where Floyd was killed as George Perry Floyd Square — a move that city officials have described as the beginning of an effort to not only memorialize Floyd’s death but revitalize an area that has become the emotional epicenter of the nation’s reckoning on race and justice.

Throughout the day, people shed tears at the spot where Floyd was killed, including Larisa Gehmie, who said she came to 38th and Chicago to reflect on Floyd’s life as “a father, a community member and a friend” but found herself also thinking of others killed by police in the last two years, including Locke and Wright.

“It’s important that as a community, especially here in Minnesota, that we continue to remember what happened here and not just continue to go on with the flow as usual,” said Gehmie, an executive assistant at the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a nonprofit that operates a bail fund for people it believes have been unjustly arrested.

“Unfortunately since George Floyd was murdered two years ago, the city and the state has not stopped killing Black people,” she said. “Until we really decide to grapple with this issue of white supremacy, the killings and murders of Black people will just continue to happen in this country.”

Andy Balaskovitz in Grand Rapids, Jack Wright in New York and Grant Stringer in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report.“

OPINION CHARLES M. BLOW The American Killing Fields

The American Killing Fields

Kaylee Greenlee for The New York Times

The Republican Party has turned America into a killing field.

Republicans have allowed guns to proliferate while weakening barriers to ownership, lowering the age at which one can purchase a weapon and eliminating laws governing how, when and where guns can be carried.

They have done this in part with help from conservatives on the Supreme Court who have upheld a corrupt and bastardized interpretation of the Second Amendment.

But Republicans have also done so by promoting fear and paranoia. They tell people that criminals are coming to menace you, immigrants are coming to menace you, a race war (or racial replacement) is coming to menace you and the government itself may one day come to menace you.

The only defense you have against the menace is to be armed.

If you buy into this line of thinking, owning a gun is not only logical but prudent. It’s like living in a flood plain and buying flood insurance. Of course you should do it.

The propaganda has been incredibly, insidiously persuasive. As Vox pointed outlast year, “Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they own roughly 45 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms,” according to 2018 data.

But once you accept the dogma that a personal arsenal is your last line of defense against an advancing threat, no amount of tragedy can persuade you to relinquish that idea, not even the slaughter of children and their teachers in their classrooms.

Even if you think that shootings like the one in Texas are horrendous, you see yourself and your interests as detached from them. You didn’t do the killing. Your guns are kept safe and secure, possibly even under lock and key. You are a responsible gun owner. The person who did the killing is a lunatic.

Republicans carry this logic in Congress. They offer thoughts and prayers but resist reforms. They offer the same asinine advice: To counter bad guys with guns, we need more good guys with guns. They seem to envision an old-school western in which gunmen square off and the ranger always kills the desperado.

They want to arm teachers, even though most don’t want to be armed. Personally, I can’t imagine any of my elementary-school teachers with a gun in the classroom trying to fend off a gunman. That’s not what they signed up for.

And so Republicans keep the country trapped in a state of intransigence, ricocheting from one tragedy to another. This is not normal, nor is it necessary and inevitable.

No other country has the level of American carnage, but no other country has American Republicans.

The mass shootings are only the tip of the iceberg.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 45,000 people died from gun-related episodes in 2020, the most recorded in this country and a 15 percent increase from the year before. Slightly more than half, 54 percent, were the result of suicide, and 43 percent were the result of homicide.

And still, we do nothing to restrict gun access, or more precisely, Republicans agree to no new restrictions. This is not a both-sides-equally issue. The lion’s share of the resistance to passing federal gun safety laws falls squarely on Republican shoulders. We have to call a fig a fig and a trough a trough.

Beginning to pass gun safety wouldn’t immediately end all gun violence in this country, but it could begin to lower the body count, to lessen the amount of blood flowing in the streets.

Republicans have no intention of helping in that regard. Too often, they seem to see the carnage as collateral — as if they could use the constancy and repetition of these killings to scuttle efforts to stop future killings. Some Republicans may even count on Americans getting used to inaction, getting inured to the killing of children, getting numb to the relentless taking of life and no taking of action.

So we go through the cycle yet again — the wailing of loved ones, the sadness of a country. We call the victims’ names and learn a little about their lives before they were cut down. Maybe this one liked ice cream or that one liked to dress up like a princess. We ask: If not now, when? If not for this, then for what? We listen to Democrats condemn and Republicans deflect.

And before we can fully mourn one massacre, another one happens. It was just over a week ago that a white supremacist terrorist gunned down 13 people in a Buffalo grocery store. In fact, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 611 mass shootings in the United States in 2020. That’s not only more than one a day; it’s approaching two a day. (The archive defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people were shot or killed, not including the shooter.)

There is no great mystery about why we are where we are in this country when it comes to gun violence. We shouldn’t — and must not — pretend that this issue is complicated. It’s not.

We are not addressing our insane gun culture and the havoc it is wreaking because the Republican Party refuses to cooperate. There is death all around us, but for too many Republicans, it is a sad inconvenience rather than impetus for action.“

Where Senate Republicans Stand on Gun Legislation

Where Senate Republicans Stand on Gun Legislation

“The New York Times reached out on Wednesday to all 50 Republicans in the Senate to see whether they would support a pair of House-passed measures to strengthen background checks for gun buyers. Within hours of the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Senate Democrats moved quickly to clear the way for possible votes on the two bills.

The legislation would expand criminal background checks to would-be purchasers on the internet and at gun shows and give the F.B.I. more time to investigate gun buyers flagged by the instant background check system.

The vast majority of Republicans have opposed gun safety legislation for years, banding together to block its consideration or refusing to bring it up.

Most Republicans who have responded to The Times so far have either declined to take a position or signaled they would oppose the measures, citing concerns about infringing on the rights of gun owners.

Kevin CramerN.D.


“I think that’s something we’re certainly going to discuss, probably very openly. That particular bill, my first review of that bill was it went a bit far. I wish we could fix the things that they’re supposed to be enforcing now, with regard to lists like the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. But I’m not someone who takes things off the table.”

John KennedyLa.


“Look, if there’s legislation to be introduced, I will review it carefully as I do all legislation.”

Mitt RomneyUtah


“I do believe that we will be looking at ways to improve our background checks. I’ve been looking at Toomey-Manchin as a piece of legislation, and seeing if that would make a difference. And I do believe that red flag laws and states are helpful."

Patrick J. ToomeyPa.


“My interest in doing something to improve and expand our background check system remains.”

John BarrassoWyo.


“We don’t want to take away the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Ted CruzTexas


Faulted Democrats “and a whole lot of folks in the media” for rushing to “try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Lindsey GrahamS.C.


“None of these things we’re talking about seems to change the outcome, before these most recent cases. I doubt if any Republicans vote for that.”

Bill HagertyTenn.


“To be clear: Using this horror to infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens — before we even know what might have prevented this tragedy — and accusing anyone who disagrees of being complicit in this abhorrent crime is not a solution that will make us safer.”

Josh HawleyMo.


“Doesn’t it also change who gets the checks? That would be one of my concerns.”

Ron JohnsonWis.


Mr. Johnson's office said, “The senator does not support HR8, which would criminalize common exchanges of firearms and strip away the rights of millions of people while doing nothing to reduce gun violence. Universal backgrounds checks wouldn’t be universal. Almost 70 percent of prisoners who used a gun to commit crimes acquired firearms from black-market sources, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.”

James LankfordOkla.


“My first thought is, background bill seems a little out of place based on what happened in Uvalde.”

Cynthia LummisWyo.


Expanding background checks “would not be acceptable for the state of Wyoming.”

Mike RoundsS.D.


“It’s one thing to say that, regardless of the facts, you should just do something. The question is whether something you would do would actually make a difference.”

Rick ScottFla.


“I haven’t seen those exact bills. I don’t support taking away people’s — law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights.”

Richard C. ShelbyAla.


“I’m a Second Amendment person, period.”

Tommy TubervilleAla.


“I’m willing to say that I’m very sorry it happened. But guns are not the problem, OK? People are the problem. That’s where it starts — and we’ve had guns forever. And we’re going to continue to have guns.”

Roger WickerMiss.


“I’m committed to exploring bipartisan solutions that can help address gun violence without infringing upon the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

Declined or didn’t answer

Marsha BlackburnTenn.


“Schools should have secured, limited entry points, and increased funding for school resource officers. School officials with prior military or law enforcement experience should be allowed to carry firearms. Finally, mental health must be taken seriously. We should improve access to resources and treatment for those suffering from mental illness.”

Roy BluntMo.


John BoozmanArk.


Mike BraunInd.


“I’m going to focus on school security, which I know works. We’ve got red flag laws in Indiana that have really measurably worked. A lot of them need to be fine-tuned.”

Richard M. BurrN.C.


“If somebody’s got a solution to this, by all means, let’s talk about it. But nobody’s proposed that they’ve got one.”

Bill CassidyLa.


Susan CollinsMaine


“I believe that Congress should look at passing what are known as red flag or yellow flag laws. They allow a court to confiscate guns from people who are mentally ill who pose a threat to themselves or others.”

John CornynTexas


Tom CottonArk.


“I have no comment on that.”

Michael D. CrapoIdaho


“What happened in Uvalde is a horrific tragedy, and I condemn all violence. I’m personally devastated to hear of the young lives lost and I will mourn for the loss of these precious lives.”

Steve DainesMont.


Joni ErnstIowa


Said she needed to better “understand the circumstances” of the shooting before backing any fix.

Deb FischerNeb.


Charles E. GrassleyIowa


John HoevenN.D.


Cindy Hyde-SmithMiss.


James M. InhofeOkla.


“I hadn’t thought about it. You’re the first one to bring that to my attention.”

Mike LeeUtah


Roger MarshallKan.


Mitch McConnellKy.


Shelley Moore CapitoW.Va.


Jerry MoranKan.


Lisa MurkowskiAlaska


Rand PaulKy.


Rob PortmanOhio


Jim RischIdaho


Marco RubioFla.


Ben SasseNeb.


Tim ScottS.C.


Dan SullivanAlaska


John ThuneS.D.


“I think there’s a time and place to have those conversations, and we’ll see where they go.”

Thom TillisN.C.


“I have not seen them, but [Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader] hasn’t consulted with us, so that’s a not a good sign.”

Todd YoungInd.


“I’m huddling up with my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats alike,” initiating “conversations about this horrible incident and what we can do to prevent future types of incidents.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

What we learned from Walker’s non-answer about school shootings


What we learned from Walker’s non-answer about school shootings

“What I like to do is see it and everything and stuff” isn’t a good answer to a question about school shootings, but it's what Herschel Walker said.

After moving from Texas to Georgia last year to run for the Senate, Herschel Walker has struggled mightily as a candidate. Republican voters didn’t seem to care: In yesterday’s primary, with just about all of the votes counted, the former football player defeated his next closest GOP rival by nearly 55 points.

Soon after, the Republican nominee for the Senate in the great state of Georgia was asked for his thoughts about yesterday’s deadly mass shooting at a Texas elementary school. As Newsweek noted, it didn’t go especially well.

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju shared a video to Twitter late on Tuesday showing him asking Walker about the shooting that left at least 19 children and two adults dead. “Do you support any new gun laws in the wake of this Texas shooting?” Raju asked Walker.... “What I like to — what I like to do is see it and everything and stuff,” Walker replied.

As a rule, when politicians are asked questions about their positions on issues, their answers are either good or bad. “What I like to do is see it and everything and stuff” isn’t really an answer at all.

It was, however, a reminder that Walker hasn’t yet reached the point that he’s even pretending to be a capable Senate candidate.

The Republican’s odd response to an important issue came on the heels of an interview in which Walker said he didn’t know if Donald Trump had ever claimed that the 2020 election was stolen — suggesting the candidate doesn’t keep up with current events at even the most basic level.

Walker also said “everyone knows” that “something happened” in the 2020 race, which dovetailed with his other recent rhetoric questioning the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s presidency.

Herschel Walker attends a college football game between UAB and Georgia on Sept. 11, 2021, in Athens, Ga.
Herschel Walker attends a college football game between UAB and Georgia on Sept. 11, 2021, in Athens, Georgia.John Bazemore / AP, file

Addressing his party’s conspiracy theories about Donald Trump’s defeat, Walker saidlast week, “I think right now they’re having trials and having all these, these hearings, but it seems like nothing is ever getting done. And that’s what’s so amazing.”

I’d love to tell you what that meant, but it’s a tough quote to decipher.

Similarly, he also recently tried to talk about energy policy, but offered little more than a garbled word salad.

All of this is part of an apparent rollout of the Republican’s ideas on substantive issues, which includes Walker’s support for an abortion ban with “no exceptions.”

It also comes against a backdrop in which Walker has made demonstrably untrue claims about his business background, his educational background, and a controversial veterans charity he claimed to have created — despite the fact that it wasn’t a charity and he didn’t create it.

What’s more, as we’ve discussed, Walker appears to know effectively nothing about public affairs, and voters have also recently learned about allegations of domestic violence and other dangerous personal behavior from his past.

Making matters just a little worse, the Senate candidate also has a weird history of promoting unproven medical treatments that don’t make any sense.

For a typical candidate, all of this would derail a campaign. But Georgia Republicans remember Walker as a fine football player, and as yesterday’s primary results show, that apparently was enough.