These debates often last one news cycle before being sidelined by coverage of the latest political controversy or asinine commentary of Kardashian proportions.
Political paralysis and a seemingly immutable NRA lobby have led elected officials to choose apathy over action. Empty rhetoric continues, as 40 percent of all guns purchased legally in this country are sold without any background check whatsoever. Gun-show loopholes and lack of regulations mean that high-capacity magazines originally intended for warfare are now in the hands of civilians — some of whom may suffer from mental illness. But politicians do nothing.
Trayvon Martin’s mother told us it’s time for immediate action.
“Guns don’t shoot themselves. The common denominator in all these [mass shooting] tragedies, including the death of my son, is a gun and bad intent,” Fulton said. “I think gun control is necessary. And we need it now.”
Benjamin Crump, the Martin family attorney, agreed. “I think Americans are adopting a dangerous notion of ‘shoot first,’ and lax guns laws only serve to exacerbate that notion,” he told The Root. “We must make our politicians accountable.”
Lucia McBath, mother of slain teenager Jordan Davis, has also become a reluctant spokesperson for stricter gun control measures. In an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, McBath said, “We’re not saying that you don’t have a right to bear arms, but there needs to be accountability. There needs to be responsibility. It’s not a black-white issue. It’s a nation issue. People are operating in fear.”
Although President Obama has expressed support for an assault-weapons ban — a measure that was initially instituted under President Bill Clinton but allowed to expire under President George W. Bush — he has done little to get it done since taking office. Perhaps this is due to the incredible obstruction President Obama faced from Republicans in general, but after the violent execution of innocent children at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, perhaps America’s gun control debate has finally reached a point of critical mass — one that neither political party will be allowed to ignore.
Since the Newtown tragedy, veteran Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have announced plans to introduce gun control legislation, with measures to outlaw high-capacity magazines. Yet it remains to be seen if conservatives in both houses of Congress will join to support reasonable measures that could save lives.
“Are we prepared to say that such violence visited upon our children, year after year after year, is somehow the price of our freedom?” asked President Obama of a grieving Newtown audience during a Sunday memorial service.
The answer, I pray, is a resounding no.
Edward Wyckoff Williams is contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al Jazeera, MSNBC, ABC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.