Congress, do something — anything — now
How long, oh, Lord? How long?
How long before one of those bullets screaming around the nation comes screaming at my son’s school? At my church? At my work?
It seems like a numbers game now. A matter of when, not if. Some Americans have now survived multiple mass shootings. It seems like only a matter of time before it gets us all.
And there sits Congress, doing nothing.
I don’t know if gun control is the answer.
I don’t know if new investments in mental health or school security might stop or at least lessen the number of gun massacres in this country.
I don’t know if red flag laws, expanded background checks, safe storage rules, or a ban on high-capacity magazines will help. I don’t know if we should prohibit the sale of AR-15s.
I know Congress has done none of those things.
I know Congress hasn’t even held a significant hearing on the issue of mass shootings in America, let alone taken any significant action. The gun control measures signed by Biden last year — the most significant action in decades — made only modest changes, encouraging states to pass red flag laws and expanding some background checks for young people who want to buy a gun.
Instead of significant action, members of Congress blame each other for politicizing the issue and they heed their money men and they spread misinformation while our children die, our parishioners die, our concertgoers die, our friends and neighbors die.
As of Thursday, just this year, America had witnessed 130 mass shootings that ended with 193 dead and 498 injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive. That’s 130 shootings in three short months, 89 short days.
That’s more than one mass shooting a day.
More than two people killed each day.
Just this year.
The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people get shot — either killed or injured — not counting the shooter. So those totals don’t include the scores of other shootings that happen in this country every day and end up with three or fewer people dead or injured.
We have a serious problem in this country. Your head’s in the sand if you think we don’t.
And Congress does nothing.
It seems like, in other eras, Congress would have long ago empaneled a blue-chip commission to take testimony on the issue from survivors, researchers, law enforcement, the administration, and advocates to figure out their best course of action. Then they would have acted.
Today, with lobbyists more powerful than ever and more money flowing and social media creating perhaps the most divisive landscape this country has ever seen, Congress sits back and point fingers everywhere but toward a solution.
And people keep dying.
I refuse to believe we can do nothing to address the crisis. I reject the idea that it’s pointless to pass new laws because criminals won’t follow the laws, anyway. If that’s the case, why do we have any laws on the books?
Besides that, maybe we don’t need laws, maybe we need investment.
Maybe we need to invest in mental health treatments. Maybe we need to somehow invest in programs for young men, who are by far most likely to commit mass shootings. Maybe we need to invest in school counselors or somehow make mental health treatment more widely available and easily accessed. Maybe we need to invest in a public service announcement campaign similar to the “see something, say something” campaign that caught on so well to help combat terrorism. Maybe we need to invest in more social-emotional education for our youth to help them figure out how to process their anger so it doesn’t someday turn into rage.
Maybe we need to make it harder for people who might cause harm to get a gun. Maybe we need to make it less likely for people to want to cause harm.
Maybe we need a mixture of both approaches.
Congress doesn’t know what we need, because its members haven’t invested the time in finding out.
I know we have to do something, because people keep dying, dying so much that only the most heinous of mass shootings even make the national news.
It’s past time for Congress to take this seriously.
Do something — anything — now.
Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-354-3112 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.