“Rhetoric is a poor substitute for action, and we have trusted only to rhetoric. If we are really to be a great nation, we must not merely talk; we must act big.”Theodore Roosevelt
It has only been two weeks since thirty-one Americans were brutally murdered and dozens more injured in the senseless mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. These were not isolated incidents. They join a long stream of mass shootings stretching back decades. As has been widely reported, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 261 mass shootings across our nation so far this year. Over the twenty years since Columbine, we have now reached a point where there are, on average, one or more mass shootings every day.
Unfortunately, these tragedies have become such a common part of our evening news reports that our collective national conscience at times seems to have become desensitized to their tragic and unnatural place in our society. There is no reason that daily mass shootings should be the “new normal.” There is no reason that communities across our nation should live in fear over whether their schools, movie theaters, community festivals, or shopping centers could be next.
Following the back-to-back massacres that stunned the nation, communities grieved and mourned, politicians called for something to be done, and individuals across the country called for action. The collective horror and outrage combined with the shift in language from respected lawmakers seemed to signal that something might be done to stem the carnage. However, as USA Today reports, it only took ten days for people to stop talking about the shootings on Twitter. And Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to call the Senate back to Washington in an emergency session to begin addressing our gun problem.
It only took New Zealand six days to ban assault weapons and its government bought back over 10,000 of these dangerous firearms in less than a month, according to The Guardian. Meanwhile, here in America, we’ve become distracted by Trump’s latest inane comments and the familiarity of our daily lives, only to put off solutions, even if only partial solutions, until it happens again — because we know it will.
Shortly following the shootings, Mitt Romney announced that he is committed to being a “constructive voice” in a “serious, fact-based, and thorough national discussion which will potentially lead to remedial legislation.” Romney should be applauded for his courage to speak up on this issue, especially when his political party prefers that the NRA speak for them. But at the same time, we have watched as individuals across our nation have been discussing solutions for twenty years while thousands continue to die far too soon and while countries around the globe have been showing us that there are solutions.
What we need are leaders who will ensure that action is taken. We need leaders who will pass common-sense gun reforms that will protect our children, families, and communities from senseless gun violence. We need leaders who will denounce racism and white nationalism, who will stand with immigrants and not their persecutors, who will protect the great citizens of this country and not the lobbyists from the NRA.
While I hope that Senator Romney will continue to be a constructive voice on this issue, we also need Romney to stand up to Mitch McConnell and demand that the U.S. Senate vote on bills already passed by the House that would implement universal background checks and increase funding for gun violence research. We need him to be a leader in the effort to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons. We need him to support passing red flag laws at both the federal and state level.
All of these reforms are supported by a large majority of Utahns and Americans. They have already been discussed and debated. And while they may not be the full solution to our gun violence problem, they are necessary steps that we must take in beginning to address this problem.