8 days after the attack on Pulse nightclub that left 49 people dead and injured another 53, the US senate was set to vote on 4 pieces of legislation relating to gun control. You’d think after all the ‘thoughts and prayers’ politicians sent after the attack, they’d be ready to do something concrete about the ridiculous levels of gun violence in the United States. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.
First up for voting was Senator Grassley’s amendment, which actually aimed to allow individuals to be allowed to buy guns immediately after being released from involuntary psychiatric treatment. That would have needed at least 60 votes in favour to pass, but it failed 53-47. Next was Senator Murphy’s amendment, which would have required a background check for all gun sales, allowing transfers without background checks only between security personnel and law enforcement, or between close family members. That bill failed 44-56.
Senator Cornyn’s amendment would have allowed terror suspects to buy guns, provided that the attorney general could not prove in court within 3 days that the suspect had already or was planning to commit an act of terrorism. This also failed 53-47. Senator Feinstein’s amendment would have allowed the Attorney General the discretion to block gun sales to known terror suspects based on reasonable suspicion the gun might be used as part of a terror attack. That failed 47-53.
As people have pointed out in the past, if Sandy Hook wasn’t enough to convince politicians that gun control reform was desperately needed, it’s hard to tell what will. Right after the attack at Pulse, Igor Volsky started sharing statistics about politicians who have voted against gun control in the past, and how much money they’ve received from the National Rifle Association. Unsurprisingly, people who’ve received millions from the NRA are opposed to gun control. Senator John McCain for example has received over $7,740,221 from the NRA and voted against expanding background checks. Volsky also live-tweeted the voting in the Senate today, pointing out that in 2007, an amendment much like Senator Feinstein’s was introduced, and at the time then-president George W. Bush voiced support for it.
Like so many other individuals’ and organisations’ responses to the shooting at Pulse, the voting in the Senate today betrayed a sort of tone-deafness on the part of the politicians. Most Americans support expanded background checks. Thousands of people called and wrote to their senators to express those opinions. But for some reason the senators wouldn’t listen.
It doesn’t seem unreasonable to check that people who try to by guns aren’t suspected terrorists, and to keep guns out of people’s hands until we can be sure that they won’t use them to cause harm to innocent people. It seems an especially bad time to suggest that we allow people who are clearly mentally ill (as evidenced by recent psychiatric treatment) should be allowed to buy guns, but Senator Grassley suggested it anyway.
The LGBTQ+ community around the world is in mourning, because we’ve lost 49 members of our family, 53 more were physically injured and countless other are now scared to go to the places we’ve always considered safe havens. In this period of extreme uncertainty and quite often hateful rhetoric in American politics, it seems more important than ever to ensure that extremists can’t easily buy weapons that can do so much damage so quickly.
The US entertains homophobic rhetoric from politicians, but as soon as someone physically attacks the LGBTQ+ community, those politicians think they can divorce themselves from the violence of their words and shift the blame for the violence onto Islam. That’s not how it works. If you preach hate, and refuse to even try to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, you have blood on your hands. If you take money from the NRA and then refuse to vote for common-sense gun reform, you have blood on your hands. If you think your right to a gun should be valued more highly than anyone else’s right to life, you have blood on your hands. And if politicians won’t just do what’s right with respect to gun control, I can only hope that the blood of my loved ones won’t be next.