By Grace Fors, Socialist Alternative (our sister organisation in the United States)
In ten days, two high-profile acts of mass slaughter have stunned millions and created unimaginable grief and fear.
On May 14, an 18 year-old armed white supremacist targeted a grocery store in a predominantly Black community in Buffalo, New York. Ten were killed, three were injured, a majority of them Black. The circumstances of the attack and the shooter’s 180-page unhinged “manifesto” made clear the shocking threat of far-right radicalization and racist violence.
Not two weeks later, disaster struck again, this time across the country in the small town of Uvalde, Texas. A lone gunman, also just 18 years old, entered an elementary school and went on a senseless rampage. Nineteen students, trapped in their fourth-grade classroom at Robb Elementary School, were murdered along with two of their teachers. Parents waited hours to hear news of whether their child was dead or alive. United States: Deadly mass shootings expose broken system
It’s been painfully hard to keep the news on, but even harder to look away. Photos of smiling victims – the 65 year-old grandmother of six who was shopping with her sister, the Black father who had been buying a birthday cake for his three year-old son at Tops Family Market, the fourth graders playing sports or holding their honor roll certificates – are too much to bear. This is especially so when experience tells us that nothing will fundamentally change.
It is clear to all that this shouldn’t be happening. The U.S. has seen more than 200 mass shootings in 2022. Twenty seven have been school shootings. But the miles-long list of those killed, injured, or traumatized by Columbine, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Pulse Nightclub, Parkland, and countless others has proven time and again that politicians will not stand up for our safety.
The response has been outrage, much of it directed at Republicans who continue to guzzle money from the NRA in exchange for other people’s lives. The Texas legislature had passed a permitless carry law in its 2021 legislative session alongside attacks on voting rights and their notorious six-week ban on abortion. This happens because of conscious political choices to allow it to happen.
Enough begging Republicans – Do something!
If Republicans have blood on their hands, the Democrats bloody theirs when they reach across the aisle.
After the Buffalo massacre, Biden refused to take executive action on gun control. In his remarks following Uvalde, he asked “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” We can only imagine why he would address this question to millions of viewers instead of himself and his own party that is in power. Despite insisting “it’s time to act,” Biden’s calls to Congress didn’t even mention any concrete measures on guns, even those he has claimed to support, instead proposing the “modest” step of confirming his nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. No matter how bad things get, Biden is not going to move a single inch in the direction of helping ordinary people.
Although information is still coming to light, what has been revealed about Uvalde’s police’s response to the active shooter has exposed shocking, cruel disregard for students’ lives, and for many people nationwide this will further undermine trust in police to keep us safe. Nevertheless, Biden has refused to call an investigation of police conduct, saying he has “the utmost respect for the men and women of law enforcement,” who in this case allegedly failed to stop the shooter from entering the school, lied about their response, tased and handcuffed parents, and caused the death of at least one child with their negligence.
Perhaps the most heinous response from any Democrat was from Chuck Schumer. Schumer left it up to Republicans whether they’d collaborate with Democrats on a bill, an outcome he said was “unlikely – burnt in the past.” Like with Roe, he will most likely be pressured to hold a vote on gun control measures that he’ll lose on purpose. And when that happens, we should remember that this is the man who could abolish the filibuster tomorrow.
He said Americans should cast their vote in November based on how candidates stand on guns. Is that what he would tell the victims who had their futures violently stolen years before they’d be eligible to vote? Not to mention that the Democrats have just wrapped up an aggressive primary campaign for an anti-abortion candidate with an A rating from the NRA against a progressive challenger. “Vote blue” has become the Democrats’ version of “thoughts and prayers.”
Republicans fully defend the murderous gun lobby, gleefully spreading conspiracy theories about the shooter’s identity to stoke xenophobic and anti-trans fervor, and the Democrats refuse genuine confrontation. We need our own independent political force to beat the corporate gun lobby and to force Democrats to take action.
What we stand for
We don’t support the seizure of all arms by the state – the force that shoots unarmed Black people and bears down on peaceful protests with military-grade weapons. However, the current situation is unacceptable. Common-sense gun control measures are needed to alleviate the terror working people face in their everyday lives – at their jobs, in school, or in public.
The crisis has reached a fever pitch that requires safety measures be taken in the urgent interest of public health. These include bans on semiautomatic weapons which have been behind recent years’ most notorious mass shootings, restoring bans on large-capacity magazines and deadly weapon modifications, universal background checks with good cause and a democratic appeals process, waiting periods for all gun sales, and closing the gun show loophole. While these measures would undoubtedly save countless lives, they will not solve the crisis of gun violence. That must be addressed at its roots.
Whenever this happens, politicians and the mainstream media will talk of mental health as an underlying cause – often to direct blame toward individuals who take violent action and to draw attention away from the system that breeds them. Alienation and polarization are indeed real factors in these events, as discontent boils over in individuals leading them to take drastic measures. But this is a much broader social crisis with collective implications that demands a collective response. With poverty, inequality, and deep unrest only worsening, the situation will not improve without real gains on these fronts. Social services, quality jobs and housing, and economic relief would all be enormously helpful in addressing the root causes of violence in society.
The capitalist political, economic, and social system is rotten to the core. Whether it be one million COVID deaths or the 233 killed so far this year in mass shootings (a number certain to climb by the time you read this article), no loss is too great to disrupt business-as-usual. But for working people, no profits, no election victories are worth paying this kind of price. It doesn’t have to be this way. Socialists fight for a world where people everywhere have full freedom and safety to work, get quality education, acquire their basic needs, and live fulfilling lives without the constant worry it could disappear in an instant.