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American gun violence: A political sickness (opinion)


By Christiane Brown
Brady Nevada State Executive Committee

America’s gun violence epidemic is a political sickness. A sickness fueled by an amoral gun lobby and its Republican enablers whose appetite for power and profit cannot be extinguished even by the grotesque slaughter of our nation’s children.

The gun rights cult is the spawn of a desperate effort by the National Rifle Association to increase the firearm industry’s flagging gun sales. Deploying the same internet disinformation tactics that have hoodwinked millions into believing the BIG LIE, the NRA quickly became adept at weaponizing fear and conspiracy theories to sell firearms.

Their grossly irresponsible online marketing campaigns, replete with fanatical videos and social media posts, rapidly spread the wildly false claims we now hear parroted by gun rights zealots daily: society is on the brink of collapse, desperate criminals are on the loose, the only way to stay safe is to stockpile as many guns as possible, and, all it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.

Image: Trevor Bexon / This Is Reno

One of their most successful tactics was to conflate the Second Amendment right to bear arms with the right of anyone – domestic abusers, felons and the mentally ill included – to have unrestrained access to firearms. This widely shared NRA narrative penetrated the gun rights cult to such an degree that millions came to view gun ownership as being central to their identity as Americans.

And the strategy worked. Today U.S. citizens own more guns than they do cars, close to 400 million at last count. They pose with them, show them off on social media, brag about them and kill with them.

Last week, the mind-numbing Robb Elementary school shooting left 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas slaughtered, bringing the horror of the Sandy Hook massacre back to all of us.

And in 2012, in the midst of our collective pain and disbelief, there was a level of national outrage that encouraged many to hope this was a tipping point, that the murder of 20 children and the 6 adults who tried to save them would finally be enough to shame the Republican Congress into taking decisive action to prevent gun violence.

But money is a more powerful motivator than shame for the morally bankrupt, and following Sandy Hook the NRA gun lobby doubled down, spending more than $1.2 million to buy Mitch McConnell’s influence and fill the campaign coffers of Republican senators who did their bidding.

In the nearly 10 years that have passed since the tragic events of Sandy Hook there have been a staggering 946 school shootings and 3,500 mass shootings. In the Robb Elementary tragedy the shooter, thanks to the passage of seven new Texas gun laws, all signed by Governor Abbott, was able to legally buy his deadly assault rifles and 1,657 rounds of ammunition as an 18th birthday present, to use in his planned killings.

Participants in Reno’s March For Our Lives in March 2018. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

The cycle is nearly routine now: the grieving, the outrage, the numbness and then, the moving on. Officially labeled as a “Mass Casualty Event,” the Uvalde, Texas tragedy shouldn’t be familiar, and yet it is. This was a Mass Failure Event, ushered in by the worst among us–the cowardly greed-fueled politicians who spew out manufactured sympathy in the wake of every gun tragedy; claiming such events should not be politicized, while lining their pockets with NRA cash.

We must refuse to repeat the cycle. It’s time to come together as a force and dismantle the NRA’s deadly agenda at the ballot box–voting out any and all candidates who enable them. This is a one-issue election now, and as the 97% who support common-sense gun laws, WE have the power to break the cycle.

The power and the responsibility.

Christiane Brown is a member of the executive committee of Brady United Against Gun Violence Nevada and Founder of Northern Nevada’s Climate Reality Project, an Emmy award-winning television writer/producer, 25-year broadcast radio veteran and a national progressive political talk radio producer and host. She has been a Reno resident since 1988.

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