Resources »

If It Were Up To Me

Every time I hear about another mass shooting in the U.S., I think about Cheryl Wheeler’s song “If It Were Up To Me.”

Let’s take a moment to consider the first part of that sentence: “Every time I hear about another mass shooting in the U.S.”

That is a deeply messed up premise with which to begin a sentence. It implies that mass shootings in the U.S. have happened more than once. That they happen so frequently they have become routine and commonplace.

They do.

They have.

Both of those things are horrifying.

Why do we have so many mass shootings in this country? Tons of possible reasons, as Cheryl Wheeler outlines in her song, but there’s one common thread that runs through all of them: guns.

We have a massive amount of guns in the U.S., the most by far per citizen than any other country. Eugene Robinson describes this in his Washington Post opinion piece We know what was used to kill 40,000 Americans last year. We just won’t do anything about it. There are 120 guns per 100 people in the USA. That means there are 393 million guns in the USA. WAMU’s How Many People In The U.S. Own Guns? says the U.S. has 4% of the world’s population but 40% of the civilian-owned guns.

That’s a lot of guns.

Why do we have so many guns? Many reasons, some historical, some having to do with societal inertia, and some stemming from the deliberate stoking of people’s fears around whether or not they will be allowed to own guns in the future.

Why do we allow it to continue? Because in this country we have a deeply messed up culture around guns.

Gun ownership has been co-opted and made a political issue by a cynical right wing machine that uses fear to whip up, exploit and use a segment of the American populace for their own political gains.

Like any other so-called issue used by the cynical right wing – which has almost completely co-opted the Republican party – they use gun ownership as a political tool to get votes. Then, when they have power, they can pass tax cuts for the wealthy, give corporations unfettered ability to exploit other people, and keep the system of white supremacy in place and in power.

Many of the people who fall for this line of fear about gun ownership and vote with the Republican party cast their votes against their own best interests. Regardless of the issues they harp on during their campaigns, the actual policy initiatives passed by Republicans harm most people and benefit the rich. This is the basic thesis of What’s The Matter With Kansas? by Thomas Frank. This strategy has made people complicit in their own oppression.

More people are wising up, though, and these issues are losing traction. So guess what? The Republican Party is turning to voter suppression to try to cling to power.

Charlotte mentioned in her post that in Georgia, you can buy a gun and use it on the same day, but you can’t register and vote on the same day. Last week the governor of Georgia signed into law a bill to make voting harder in Georgia.

One of the issues that is losing traction is guns. A majority of Americans now support gun control. For the first time in a while, there’s a possibility of passing meaningful gun safety legislation. Here’s what we’ve got to do:

In the short term, we need to deal with our gun problem.

In the longer term, we need to change our culture around guns.

Neither of these will be easy or fast. This problem has been hundreds of years in the making. People who have been hoodwinked and manipulated into thinking they have a God-given and constitutional right to own as many military-grade assault weapons as they want to aren’t going to suddenly wake up and say gee whiz, sorry, I was wrong. But we must do it. 40,000+ deaths per year, routine school shootings, and 19,000+ gun deaths by suicide in 2020 demand that we solve this problem.

Here’s the thing we all need to realize: we don’t have to allow this situation to continue. It’s not so intractable that things must remain this way forever.

People have the power. If it were up to me, I’d take away the guns. That’s not how it works, but people do have this power: to vote out each and every elected official who opposes gun safety.

Of every party.

At every level of government.

All of them.