You don’t have to tell me that Republicans have aligned themselves with the NRA. But progress is being made, slowly but surely.
Take, for example, the recent news from my home state of Tennessee. In 2021, Republican Gov. Bill Lee thanked the NRA for helping to pass a bill that allowed people to openly carry handguns without permits; one of Lee’s top legislative goals for the year. Following the Covenant school shooting in Nashville, Lee gave the usual “thoughts and prayers” talking point while unveiling the GOP’s predictable post-shooting proposals: increasing funding for police (and, by extension, increasing the presence of guns in our schools) and mental health resources. He made no mention of taking further action to curb gun violence. I mean, why address systemic problems when you can talk about personal responsibility?
However, a week later, notably after Republican state legislators expelled Democratic Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson for joining the calls of young people demanding gun safety legislation, Lee was suddenly all action. After days of listening to protesters chant “F*ck Bill Lee” outside of the State Capitol, Lee signed an executive order strengthening background checks for gun purchases, and urged lawmakers to pass a “red flag law” that would temporarily remove guns from dangerous people. “When there is a clear need for action, I think that we have an obligation to remind people that we should set aside politics and pride and accomplish something that the people of Tennessee want to get accomplished,” Lee told reporters.
Republicans are not immune from gun violence either. Lee himself lost a family friend. Many Covenant, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and Sandy Hook parents are Republicans. While their calls for action don’t always align with what you or I would want—more police in schools, for example, is a nonstarter for progressives because it would increase police violence against Black, brown, and disabled students—they are also tired of inaction. Just last year, 15 Republican senators joined Democrats to pass federal gun safety legislation. Hard does not mean impossible. This is a fight worth having.
Gun violence in the U.S. is directly connected to white privilege and racial identity. Black Americans experience 10 times the gun homicides and nearly three times the fatal shootings by police of white Americans, while white Americans are the least likely to even consider gun violence a major problem. Additionally, at least 95% of mass shootings are committed by cisgender men.
The NRA and gun absolutists would have us believe that the presence of firearms makes us safer. But the facts are clear. In states where elected officials have taken action to pass gun safety laws, fewer people die by gun violence.
It doesn’t get simpler than that: Gun safety laws work.
Congress has the power to require safe storage of firearms, require background checks for all gun sales, eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability, and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Any of these (or all of them) would help reduce crime and gun violence in our communities. Further delay in passing good sense reforms is a dereliction of duty.
Thoughts and prayers cannot replace action. For this epidemic to end, Congress must intervene.
Sign and send to Congress: Enough is enough. Pass gun safety laws now.