While right-wing conservatives celebrate their long-fought victory to overturn women’s reproductive rights to protect the life of an unborn child, liberal lawmakers continue to drag their feet by engaging in infighting over proposed gun laws aimed at protecting every American in danger of losing their lives in a mass shooting or gun-related violence.
The desperate response by way of legislation addressing gun violence and banning access to assault weapons used in more than 314 mass shootings this year couldn’t get a vote this week.
House Democrats failed to compromise on gun laws that would also address funding for law enforcement and hold gun manufacturers civilly liable.
In June, President Biden signed the Safer Communities Act, a bipartisan bill that would prevent dangerous individuals from accessing weapons and increase funding for mental health programs. The bill adds convicted domestic violence abusers in dating relationships to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and gun buyers under 21 will have to wait up to three days while their juvenile and mental health records, along with state databases and local law enforcement records, are reviewed. Lastly, the bill provides $250 million to fund community-based violence prevention initiatives.
President Biden said at a White House ceremony commemorating the passage of the SCA, “We have finally moved that mountain — a mountain of opposition, obstruction, and indifference that has stood in the way and stopped every effort at gun safety for 30 years in this nation.” He noted that no gun legislation has passed through Congress in 30 years, yet he added, “This legislation is real progress, but more has to be done.”
Despite the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, by an 18-year-old reportedly nicknamed “school shooter” who took the lives of 19 children and two teachers on May 24 — and, weeks earlier, in Buffalo, New York, a supermarket mass shooting by an 18-year-old white supremacist who took the lives of 11 people — Congress has not instituted a ban on assault weapons despite outcries across the country to do so.
Politics and the threat of not being reelected in the fall midterm elections is the stalemate that appears to preclude lawmakers from taking the necessary measures Americans are demanding right now. Measures would address the redirecting funding for police, police reform, and most critically, a ban on assault weapons, including those used in the Uvalde, Buffalo, and most mass shootings.
Black lawmakers, particularly members of the Congressional Black Caucus, expressed to House leadership that any package, including funds for police, must have legislative language that holds law enforcement accountable in cases of police brutality, according to The Washington Post.
Sentiments of the CBC were expressed in a statement released by CBC Chair Joyce Beatty (D-OH) following the killing of Jayland Walker. She wrote, “Far too many Black people in America are killed at the hands of police during alleged traffic violations, and we cannot remain silent. This is not an acceptable outcome, and we can no longer afford to be merely outraged and heartbroken. While we have seen action on police reform in recent months, it is clear there is more work to do.”
House Democrats appear optimistic that the proposed gun measures will be voted on in August when Congress returns from recess. But there remains the political tightrope many are walking on to gain enough votes among their colleagues seeking reelection against those who will attempt to characterize them as soft on crime.
It’s a similar dilemma faced by Black communities across the country that have witnessed an increase in violent gun-related crimes and are calling for more police presence, juxtaposed to the threat of police that lack proper training and take the lives of young Black men and women unnecessarily.
This is why voter participation is essential in the upcoming mid-term elections. Those who would instead not put in place stronger gun laws and police reform measures have the loudest voices and decide what lawmakers will vote on.
If this year’s primaries indicate the voter outcome in November, the level of participation has been described as “lackluster” and “dismal.” In D.C., alone, where the highest seat is the mayor and the non-voting member of Congress, less than 20% cast their ballots on June 21. Media reports indicate that the range of voter participation in the recent primaries ranged from 18% to 25%.
Answering the call to increase Black voter turnout this fall significantly is a coalition of 50 Black organizations calling the effort the National Unity 2022 Black Voting and Power Building Campaign, or Unity 22. National and local Black-led groups will be galvanizing their constituencies to outdo the 2018 voter turnout numbers and to do so by recognizing and fighting against many new laws put in place to suppress the Black vote.
Gun violence and police reform are among the host of issues facing elected officials, but a vote instituting stronger gun laws and a ban on assault weapons is needed now to save lives. The way to secure these laws so that Americans will feel safe in their homes and on the streets is to relentlessly express to our politicians what we want and that they will have our backs at the polls on election day this fall if they deliver. We must speak bolder and louder than others who want to protect the rights of gun owners and police over the citizens victimized by both.
Unity 22 is a coalition of leaders of Black-led organizations. Still, it is a collective of all registered and eligible voters who register to participate in the November mid-term elections. It means we each must bring one or many to the polls to support those candidates who support what we want because we’ve told them and, in turn, have promised to deliver.
This is what democracy looks like!