Too many assault weapons, too easily procured. Too many youth growing up in dysfunctional situations, often with untreated mental illness or trauma. A polarized country that can’t make a collective decision to end the bloodshed and violence.
The Covenant School shooting marked the 128th mass shooting this year. And within a week, another mass shooting occurred at a bank in Kentucky. By the time you read this, there will likely have been more.
Six victims shot dead at the school, three of them children; five killed at the bank, and eight more injured, including two police officers, with one shot in the head just 10 days after graduating from the police academy. Both shooters killed in a firefight. Lots of “thoughts and prayers” from Republican politicians, offering nothing beyond their empty words.
We’re all sick at heart of the senseless killings, and it’s undeniable our country is sick, too—just not sick enough, apparently, to enact meaningful change. It’s hard to see anything significantly transforming our society’s fixation on guns. It didn’t after the horror of Sandy Hook and Uvalde or the Route 91 Harvest Festival massacre in Las Vegas, or any of the other hundreds of mass shootings in recent years.
It’s not for lack of trying by grassroots activists, family members of those killed and injured, and many Democratic lawmakers, despite the threats of extremists who think any common-sense reform is a path to losing their perceived right to any gun, anywhere, at any time. But as Americans are endlessly slaughtered, the voices on the side of reason are getting more strident, more demanding, more insistent that something be done. And gun proponents are responding with even more righteous absurdities, like the expulsion of two young Black Representatives in Tennessee’s Legislature who dared to disrupt a floor session to demand their constituents be heard. A third representative, a white woman, barely survived expulsion by just one vote.
Expelling an elected official for breaking a legislative body’s internal rules is an extreme response by any rational observation. Expulsion certainly didn’t happen in Nevada’s Assembly in 2015 when firebrand Assemblywoman Michele Fiore disrupted a floor session by speaking out of turn, yelling, “Sit your ass down!” at a fellow Republican who annoyed her. The Assembly recessed, and Fiore later gave a laughably insincere apology for breaking the rules.
In 2013, the Assembly did expel a member, Steven Brooks, on a two-thirds majority vote after a well-documented investigation of his violent threats and erratic, paranoid behavior. It was an agonizing but necessary bipartisan process.
The Tennessee expulsions backfired on Republicans, as both representatives were reappointed to their seats within a few days, gaining a national profile they’ve both pledged to use to further their reform agenda. But it’s unlikely other Republican-controlled legislatures have learned much from this experience, even as they grow increasingly alienated from the mainstream opinions of swing voters on gun safety and reproductive rights, risking a punishing voter backlash that could dramatically change the future political landscape.
Nevada’s Democrats have proposed three gun-reform measures this session, all of them recently passing out of committee, moving on to a floor vote. Assembly Bill 355 would prohibit the sale of an assault weapon to anyone under 21, consistent with the parameters for the sale of handguns in Nevada. Assembly Bill 354 would prohibit firearms at election sites, and Senate Bill 171 prohibits those who have been convicted of hate crimes from accessing firearms.
Assembly Republicans rejected the bills before they were even heard, weakly explaining their decision in a news release stating they are “controversial bills scheduled on short notice at irregular times,” even though the bills were introduced weeks ago, and the joint Judiciary Committee hearing was intended to spotlight the measures.
Gov. Joe Lombardo will have the last word if the bills reach his desk. As the Clark County sheriff during the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Lombardo knows the devastation of gun violence firsthand, although now that he depends on Republican extremists to maintain his political office, his views on gun reform have hardened, and many are predicting the bills will die under his veto pen.
Lombardo could reject his party’s insistence that guns matter more than our children’s safety, and demonstrate political courage in a time when it is desperately needed. Maybe he’ll surprise us.