Just a few days ago, we described how gun violence is killing the United States following the deaths of 10 innocent people at a Buffalo grocery store on May 14.  

Now comes the latest maddening slaughter — 19 students and two adults at a Texas school on May 24.

All totaled since January, there have been 214 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Even more horrifying: 17,424 people have died because of guns this year in the United States. That’s more people than live in West Columbia, Beaufort or Orangeburg.

Gun violence is out of control. It is so lethal that guns surpassed auto accidents as the number one killer of children for the first time in 2020.

What’s so mind-numbingly frustrating is that gun violence is a problem we can solve. Unfortunately, about half of the people elected to Congress and state legislatures stick their fingers in their ears and hum, “nah, nah, mmm, mmm” to avoid engaging on the subject. It doesn’t help that the majority of them have been co-opted by a rabid gun lobby with gazillions of dollars that make politicians cower like Harry Potter house elves.

Nevertheless, we have a duty to pull our heads out of the political sand and deal with the gun intransigence that has swept across America. Too many people are dead. Perhaps the only real way to get something done is to hold politicians more accountable. Nothing else seems to work. So let’s get loud and force them to state their positions and take action, instead of avoiding and deflecting. And then let’s vote them out of office if they won’t do what they are elected to do — take on tough issues and fix huge problems.

The political culture in the United States Senate illustrates the problem of grappling over guns. Of 50 Democrats in the chamber, all but one want to take up two House-passed bills to strengthen background checks on guns so they stay out of the hands of nuts. But Democrats need 10 Republican votes to avoid a GOP filibuster.

According to The New York Times this week, only five of 50 GOP senators said they were undecided or were open to talking about the two House bills. Fourteen, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, opposed the measures or said they were leaning no. The rest — more than 30 senators — didn’t answer or brushed off the issue, the Times reported.

It’s not much different in South Carolina. Emails and tweets this week to about 30 candidates and elected officials around the Lowcountry generally met with crickets. The few who did respond reacted with a mix of grief, anger, frustration and compassion.  

Why can’t we treat how we deal with guns like how we deal with driving cars? To be able to drive, we’re required to pass written and practical tests, get a title and license plate, face periodic renewals and  have insurance. What if being able to buy a gun faced similar regulatory hurdles? Such requirements wouldn’t remove the right to own a gun, but would make sure people who wanted guns were responsible, just like we do with driving. If we licensed guns like cars, do you think more kids would be alive?

Instead of doing nothing again after a massacre, let’s start doing something so the bad people who want to use guns for bad reasons have a harder time getting them. It’s not rocket science — tougher laws work. When the purchase of military-style assault rifles were banned, as President Biden said this week, gun violence went down. 

Politicians work for us. Too many seem to forget they are elected to fix, not avoid, enduring problems. Let’s hold them accountable by demanding answers on how they will reduce gun violence. Ask at rallies. Ask at debates. Ask when you see them in a store. Don’t let them slither away. And if they won’t answer or won’t do anything to break the status quo, vote out the fraidy-cats and elect people who aren’t scared to engage.

Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to:  feedback@charlestoncitypaper.com.

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