By Marty Essen, Victor
What do gun deaths and environmental destruction have in common? Three letters: GOP.
As I type this, yet another mass shooting is in the news. Even so, little will be done to prevent the next gun-related tragedy. Sure someone in congress will introduce some regulation, but ultimately it will fail or become too watered-down to do any good. That’s because it’s easier to stop a bill than to pass a bill. And when it comes to obstruction, nobody does it better than the GOP.
While Republican leaders endlessly spout their talking point, “gun restrictions take away our freedom,” leaders in other countries—that love freedom just as much as we do—have taken action to make gun-violence a virtual non-issue.
For example, after a 1996 mass shooting killed 35 people in Tasmania, the Australian government (led by a conservative prime minister) enacted laws that prohibited semi-automatic weapons and required gun registration, background checks, and waiting periods for all purchases. They also instituted a weapons buyback program. Essentially, Australians could still own guns; they just had to go through some hoops to get them.
Republicans frequently claim that gun laws don’t work, because they only affect law-abiding citizens. Really? Let’s compare countries: In 2010, Australia had 30 gun homicides and the U.S. had 11,078 gun homicides. When expanded to include all gun-related deaths, Australia had 236 and the U.S. had 31,672.
Since Australia has a smaller population than we have, it’s only fair to look at the figures proportionately. In Australia gun homicides were 0.13 per hundred thousand people, and in the U.S. they were 3.59. As for all gun-related deaths, Australia had 1.06 per hundred thousand compared to 10.26 in the U.S. These are not cherry-picked figures, as nearby years are quite similar.
While Australia hasn’t had a single mass shooting since their gun regulations took effect, we slaughter the equivalent of the cities of Helena and Phillipsburg every single year! Imagine how many lives we could save if we followed Australia’s lead. Or aren’t those lives worth the inconvenience of going through a few hoops?
For those thinking Australia’s regulations would violate our Second Amendment rights, I defer to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2008 that “the [Second Amendment] right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Furthermore, we have also limited the scope of other constitutional amendments, with little outcry from Republicans.
Moving on to our second issue, the GOP hasn’t always disdained the environment. In fact, it was Richard Nixon who created the EPA and signed the Endangered Species Act. Then Ronald Reagan ripped the solar panels off the White House and launched the Republican Party into an anti-environment crusade that continues to this day.
How much have Republicans changed since Nixon? According to a report published by the minority staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Republican-led “House of Representatives averaged one anti-environmental vote for every day the House was in session in 2011 and the first half of 2012.” Of those votes, 37 obstructed action on climate change.
Human-induced climate change may be the most important issue of our time, yet a majority of GOP leaders continue to deny it even exists. Where are they getting their information? Certainly not from the scientists studying the problem! Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real, and it is caused by humans.
Years of GOP environmental obstruction has cost us dearly. The West’s fire season is now two months longer than it used to be; glaciers are melting at an accelerated rate; storms are becoming more severe; and the worst is yet to come. Had Republicans not blocked progress, we might already be well on our way to conquering climate change.
The sum of both these issues is that Republicans have abdicated their responsibility to our country and played politics with our lives. By their actions, they’ve become accomplices to our country’s gun violence and have earned the lion’s share of blame for America’s inability to lead on climate change. It’s time to send them the bill!