#5SmartReads - Gun Violence & America
Hitha on what you need to know and what you can do right now
Before I dive into today’s #5SmartReads, I want to share a script for an e-mail or call you can make to your Senators (as the House passed HR8, which would close the Charleston loophole and expand background checks, and the Senate is holding its confirmation hearing for the ATF director nominee this week):
My name is XXX, and I reside in (the city/neighborhood/zip code you live in). I’m calling to ask the senator to vote for HR8, and in support of a filibuster exception to bring HR8 to a vote.
I also ask the senator to confirm Steven Dettelbach as the head of the ATF, immediately.
Common sense gun reform is necessary in this country, and confirming a leader to the ATF and voting on HR8 are a start.
You can also use this as a script for an e-mail or a social media post, tagging your Senator. Every share and action you take (especially regularly) is logged with their office.
This is What Happens When You Live Under Minority Rule (Culture Study)
Anne Helen Petersen’s essay has been widely shared on social over the past 2 days (and for good reason). Her words touch on this article I shared two years ago, and show the utter lack of progress we’ve made to reverse the trend.
“The United States has always, in some capacity, been governed through some form of minority rule. But the last 22 years (and the last six in particular) have underlined just how difficult it is for the will of the majority to translate into policy or governmental action. It feels like the United States is regressing, but we’re actually just getting redrawn according to this minority group’s architectural renderings of a Christian Nationalist Theocracy. We’re free to pound on the doors (politely, of course, and certainly not in a way that would make any Supreme Court justice feel uncomfortable). But we’re stuck in the design. With all these motherfucking guns.
And there is no straightforward escape or immediate means to alter this design, because its fortitude is symptom of American democracy — the senate, the electoral college, the Supreme Court and its lifetime appointees — functioning as intended. The dilution of votes in cities is the point, and so long as the minority remains in power, it will continue to make laws (and judgments) that protect against its erosion. Voter registration campaigns are not enough. Reciprocal gerrymandering strategies, not enough. If, in a state like Idaho, you go through the initiative process to try and pass legislation (like Medicaid expansion) that’s actually popular, then the legislation will rewrite the laws to prevent it from ever happening again.”
Until we face the truth of what we’ve become and begin to deny the minority the ability to wage its tyranny on us, nothing will change.
May 24, 2022 (Letters from an American)
And now to Heather Cox Richardson for a history lesson about the NRA - and how they’ve changed drastically since the 1970s:
“By the 1920s, rifle shooting was a popular American sport. “Riflemen” competed in the Olympics, in colleges, and in local, state, and national tournaments organized by the NRA. Being a good marksman was a source of pride, mentioned in public biographies, like being a good golfer. In 1925, when the secretary of the NRA apparently took money from ammunition and arms manufacturers, the organization tossed him out and sued him.
NRA officers insisted on the right of citizens to own rifles and handguns but worked hard to distinguish between law-abiding citizens who should have access to guns for hunting and target shooting and protection, and criminals and mentally ill people, who should not. In 1931, amid fears of bootlegger gangs, the NRA backed federal legislation to limit concealed weapons; prevent possession by criminals, the mentally ill and children; to require all dealers to be licensed; and to require background checks before delivery. It backed the 1934 National Firearms Act, and parts of the 1968 Gun Control Act, designed to stop what seemed to be America’s hurtle toward violence in that turbulent decade.”
So what happened? Movement Conservatism, for one, and an effective figurehead for that movement - Ronald Reagan.
We have been able to pass legislation and enforce it to keep us safe - the Brady Bill, The Assault Weapons Ban, and more. But the NRA has been able to defeat them or render them useless through judicial and legislative advocacy from the local to the federal levels. In order to beat them, we need to study their playbook - and use what works to draft our own.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is the government agency responsible for enforcing the gun laws on the books, at all levels (supporting local and state law enforcement).
The bureau has been without a Senate-confirmed leader in the past 3 administrations (still counting this one, as the current nominee is entering his Senate hearings this week). Until recently, it has been woefully underresourced and dealt with a minimal budget (a $1.9B budget for the ATF was included in the budget bill passed earlier this year).
And this is how they trace firearms - looking up records in a paper database.
This is how a gun is looked up in America. And if you wonder why I’m a broken record about Congress passing a budget for the ATF for it to do its job, this is why. What good are new gun laws if we can’t even enforce the laws on the books? What good are new laws if THIS is the system we have to enforce the current ones?
Pass and Enforce Red Flag Laws. Now. (The French Press | The Dispatch)
There are common sense gun safety laws that have support from both parties. Red Flag Laws are a significant one, and ones we should be pushing at the state and federal levels (even Governor Abbott indicated his support for them after the El Paso shooting, though it never went anywhere and Texas removed even more gun safety measures through legislative action).
While I disagree with David French that expanded background checks, assault weapon bans, and limits on magazine capacity would help prevent gun violence (both American history and the data from the rest of the world indicate otherwise), I will start somewhere that has support from both parties - and if red flag laws are that start, then let’s fight for it.
It’s time to repeal the gun industry’s exceptional legal immunity (The Conversation)
This article was written nearly 7 years ago. And it rings truer today than it did when it was published.
Because we’ve seen the impact of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, and how it’s contributed to a rise in mass murders by gun violence, and let the ecosystem of gunmakers and sellers immune while innocent people are murdered in just living their lives.
I am terrified on how the Supreme Court will rule in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which is poised to significantly weaken the “proper cause” requirement in the gun license applications in states like New York, California, and states that have strict public carry restrictions.
For SCOTUS to effectively enable open carry in every state in the nation and with no measure to hold gun manufacturers and distributors liable while the agency responsible for enforcing our meager gun safety laws is doing so WITH A PAPER DATABASE and a backlog of tens of thousands…