Last October I wrote an article called: Gun control can wait until the next mass shooting. That was after the Las Vegas shooting, a shooting spree that left 58 dead and over 500 injured. As of this date, “The Las Vegas Shooting” is ranked as the deadliest mass shooting in American history. That fact—alone—should have forced Congress to discuss the merits of strengthening gun control policies.
But that discussion was discouraged.
Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer (NY) insisted that his fellow Democrats stay away from the issue. Schumer instructed his colleagues to mount serious opposition to the Republican tax bill. Schumer figured it was safer to focus on economic issues as the midterm elections approached instead of gun control. Democrats have 10 seats to defend in states won by President Trump, and in most of those states guns are a big part of local culture.
Immediately following the Las Vegas shooting, public opinion polls showed strong support for various gun control proposals, but Schumer knew the minority that opposed those gun control measures had more political clout, and more importantly, the opposition was better organized and more motivated because they’re single issue voters.
The director of 1Pulse4America, a gun-violence prevention group created after the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, said, “Democrats need to find courage and learn to speak to the issue.”
But for Schumer the time wasn’t right.
I concluded that article by stating, Schumer’s problem wasn’t a Republican-controlled congress. It was the inadequacy of moral outrage behind gun control. Moral outrage doesn’t convert into a monopoly of single issue voters because the outrage is temporary, so as far as Schumer was concerned, gun control could wait until the next mass shooting.
But I was wrong.
A while back The New York Times ran this headline: “How often do mass shootings occur?” On average, every day, records show. (Mass shooting was defined as a shooting that leaves four or more people dead or wounded.) If that’s accurate, then how many mass shootings took place between October 2017 and February 2018?
You can do the math.
So I should have named that article: Gun control can wait until the next shooting that gets mass media coverage after the Republicans pass the tax bill.
That brings us to the recent Parkland, Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead. A student-led movement called—Never Again—emerged out of this tragedy. They are demanding that lawmakers do something to stop gun violence. CNN sponsored a Town Hall meeting where student survivors of the school shooting and parents confronted the pro-gun positions of Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and an NRA spokeswoman.
Here, the moral outrage I previously mentioned was fully displayed.
But the Never Again movement wants to keep the moral momentum by staging a massive march on Washington next month, and all of these teenage participants will be registering to vote for the first time in the near future.
So here’s the real question: Is this finally the right time for Democrats to make the issue an actual priority, or is it just a strategic moment in time for the democrats to recruit single issue voters to counter the opposition that discouraged Schumer?
Unfortunately, it’s the latter. Schumer’s original strategy remains in effect because control of Congress is still at stake. So gun control can wait until after the midterms, but in the meantime, they’ll discuss “school safety.”
(J. Pharaoh Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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