Mariano: Cowardice of elected officials fuels gun violence

Gun Rights

I’ve never been a fan of former Vice President Mike Pence. Every time I hear him refer to his wife as “mother” or when he answers a reporter’s question by saying that he’s “praying on it,” I want to gag. It all seems like one big load of turnips.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with divine guidance. We can all use help and inspiration. But when you tell the world that’s what you’re doing, it just rings hollow – at least to me.

Recently, I listened to Pence address the National Rifle Association’s convention. In his most sanctimonious tone, he told the NRA members to “stand your ground” relative to any new gun control measures. Referencing President Biden and other Democrats who support stricter gun safety measures he said, “We don’t need lectures about the liberties of law-abiding citizens.”

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I guess he forgot that many mass killers were “law-abiding citizens” until they weren’t.

Instead Pence called for an expedited federal death penalty “in months” for anyone involved in mass shootings. Since most of these cases can take close to a year to prepare and put before a judge and jury, my guess is that he wants to skip all that and go straight to the gallows.

Americans want reasonable gun safety measures

Everyone in the country knows about our gun fetish and the epidemic of gun violence that we face. But people may not know that we have more guns in America than people with 120.5 guns for every 100 people. The next closest large country is Canada at 34.7.

In fact, if you combine the totals for 14 countries that we might reasonably compare ourselves to excluding Canada and including Russia, China, England, France and Germany, Americans still have more guns per capita.

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that we also have more mass shootings than all the other developed countries on the planet combined. Following the recent attack in Louisville, we’ve had 146 mass shootings and 15 mass killings – shootings at which four or more people were killed – so far in 2023.

Overall, according to multiple studies, the United States has the highest level of gun violence across developed nations with a gun homicide rate about two dozen times higher than peer nations. In America, we shoot people just for knocking on the wrong door or turning into the wrong driveway.

And it shouldn’t surprise you that gun violence is the leading cause of death for children in America.

Americans are sick of it all.

With each mass shooting, more and more Americans have come to support reasonable gun safety measures. Today, according to multiple surveys about two-thirds of Americans support stricter gun laws – even a majority of Republicans support tougher laws.

They support universal background checks, red flag laws, closing the gun-show loophole and restricting the ability of people to carry guns in public without a permit. A growing number of Americans now support a ban on the sale of AR-15 rifles and similar semiautomatic weapons.

So given all the carnage and the public’s desire to see tougher gun safety laws, why hasn’t Congress done much about it?

Cowards in Congress, state houses

Part of the answer is money. Sixteen United States senators have received more than $1 million in campaign contributions from the NRA, with Mitt Romney leading the pack at more than $13 million. Combined, these public servants have an average of more than 18,000 gun-related deaths each year in their states. That’s like having a Sept. 11 event in one of those states every two months.

For some of the deaths, these hypocrites send “thoughts and prayers.” Occasionally, they will attend one of the funerals or more likely show up at a press conference where they decry the unlawful use of guns and the villains who use them.

But when they’re asked about reasonable gun safety measures they run and hide.

I should point out that even a majority of gun owners support things like red flag laws, universal background checks and required permits for the purchase and possession of a gun, among other measures.

And is there any reason that a private citizen should be allowed to buy an assault weapon with large-capacity magazines, one designed to cause maximum carnage, and then roam the streets of any city or town? Of course there isn’t – at least not a good reason.

Studies have shown that 85% of the casualties from public mass shootings were caused by assault rifles. We also know that an assault-weapons ban together with a ban on large-capacity magazines works. These weapons of war have no place in the hands of the general public.

At the NRA convention, top executive Wayne LaPierre threatened any politician who would stand against them.

“Gun-hating politicians should never go to bed unafraid of what this association and all of our millions of members can do to their political careers.” The crowd cheered and the politicians cowered in fear.

And so there will be more needless killing. Recently, at a Walgreens in Tennessee, an employee followed a pregnant woman into the parking lot because he thought she was stealing. Rather than call and wait for police, he shot her with a semiautomatic pistol. He’s claiming self-defense.

There is no excuse for any of this and yet we allow it to happen.

Perhaps the majority of Americans – those who support tougher gun safety measures – should act more like the NRA and toss any elected official who refuses to support reasonable gun safety measures into the dustbin of history where they belong.

Email Raymond V. Mariano at rmariano.telegram@gmail.com. He served four terms as mayor of Worcester and previously served on the City Council and School Committee. He grew up in Great Brook Valley and holds degrees from Worcester State College and Clark University. He was most recently executive director of the Worcester Housing Authority. His column appears weekly in the Sunday Telegram.

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