Periodically Faithful Democrats will post message memos put together by Message Matters. Below is today’s special edition memo on gun violence.
In the wake of the elementary school massacre, ordinary Americans are demanding action oncommon-sense gun laws — like a strong new ban on the assault weapon and high-capacity magazinesthat killed these kids — while GOP Members of Congress dodge the issue. Here’s how to shut down their excuses, whether you’re debating on air or on your Facebook wall.
Congress chose to legalize the gun that killed these children.
EXCUSE: “Democrats are politicizing a tragedy to push gun control.”
- Americans are lifting up the Newton families in their thoughts and prayers. But politicians owe these families more than condolences and platitudes.
- We can’t wait for the next tragedy. We have to act now to prevent the gun violence that’s tearing people’s lives apart. We have to make sure that other parents don’t have to go through what the Newtown families are going through.
- If today isn’t the day to talk about gun violence, when is? If 20 little kids gunned down aren’t enough to move us to action, what is?
- What’s the only time a politician WON’T show up in front of a camera? When they have blood on their hands.
FACT: 40% of Americans have themselves or personally know someone who has been a victim of gun violence.
EXCUSE: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
- Look at the knife attack that happened in China on the same day. None of the children were killed because the attacker didn’t have a gun. If guns don’t kill people, would their parents be better off if the attacker had used a gun?
- Guns do kill people — 34 murdered in the U.S. every single day with a gun. And the more powerful the gun and more ammo it has, the more people it can kill.
- Our police officers know this — they risk their safety every day when they confront criminals packing dangerous weapons that virtually anyone off the street can get.
- Take car deaths — we don’t shrug and say, “Cars don’t kill people, drunks do.” Instead we required seat belts, air bags, child seats, and DUI checkpoints — and reduced the national traffic fatality rate by nearly 90% since the 1950s.
POLL: Voters have never supported weaker gun laws — barely 10% of the electorate wants them.
EXCUSE: “Stronger gun laws wouldn’t have prevented the Newtown tragedy because it’s legal to have the guns that the shooter used.”
- This is exactly the problem — Congress is the reason why the guns that killed these kids are legal. We need to stop making it so easy for virtually anyone to get their hands on these kinds of deadly weapons and high-capacity magazines.
- In fact, the Newtown shooter was armed with enough ammo to kill every student at the school. He used an AR-15 military-style assault rifle to kill the children — a weapon that would be covered by a strong new assault weapons ban.
- Lethal military-style assault weapons aren’t needed to hunt deer or protect a homeowner from a robber.
- But the NRA lobbyists are standing in the way of stronger laws because they represent gun manufacturers, not gun owners.
SOLUTION: The Columbine killers and the Aurora shooter also used assault weapons, while the gunmen in the Tucson, Fort Hood, and Virginia Tech shootings were all armed with high-capacity magazines. We can start fixing our gun laws by banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — ideas with strong public support.
EXCUSE: “Mass shootings will keep happening even with new gun laws.”
- Do you seriously want to tell the Newtown parents “let’s do nothing”? Are you telling the Newtown police officers who had to respond to this shooting that we don’t need new public safety laws?
- Defending the status quo is indefensible. Even gun owners are calling for changes to our weak gun laws. Even Senator Manchin, who has the NRA’s highest rating, is saying enough — we need to strengthen our gun laws.
- Actually, more guns go hand-in-hand with more mass shootings. That’s just common sense and hard data proves it, too. Right-wing media figures like John Lott who claim otherwise have already been widely discredited.
SOLUTION: 40% of gun sales — six million guns a year — are sold by unlicensed dealers who aren’t required to conduct background checks under federal law. We can start by closing this obvious loophole so there’s a criminal background check for every gun sold in America.
EXCUSE: “We don’t need new laws — we only need to enforce the laws on the books.”
- The Newtown massacre proves that the laws we already have on the books are part of the problem — the shooter used guns that are legal in the U.S.
- Even if all you wanted to do is better enforce existing gun laws, it will take new laws just to get the old laws working because they are so riddled with loopholes.
- Look at the gun show loophole — it lets criminals avoid background checks if they buy from unlicensed gun-sellers. That’s six million guns sold every year, and we have no idea which criminals are getting what.
- In fact, when an al Qaeda spokesman is openly talking about our loose gun laws as a tool for terrorists, don’t you think it’s time to act?
FACT: Gun laws in the U.S. are so weak that we don’t even have a federal law that bans gun trafficking. That is a fixable problem.
EXCUSE: “We’re defending our freedoms in the Constitution.”
- Maybe you missed the Declaration of Independence, which defends life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
- Every American should have the freedom to be safe in their homes and neighborhoods. Children have a right to not be killed in their classrooms and parents have a right to not lose their sons and daughters like this.
- The NRA lobbyists who push this talking point want powerful, dangerous weapons in every neighborhood. That’s not freedom — it’s fear.
POLL: Even 90% of gun owners in swing states support requiring background checks on all gun sales, including private sales.
EXCUSE: “The Second Amendment says we have a right to guns.”
- Where does it say people have the right to stockpile military-style assault weapons and buy thousands of rounds of ammo off the Internet?
- Recklessly disregarding the gun violence that plagues so many people’s lives is morally bankrupt and doesn’t have anything to do with protecting freedom.
- Look, we’re now talking about taking reasonable steps to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. Even Justice Scalia said “the Second Amendment right is not unlimited.”
POLL: Nearly 90% of NRA members — actual gun owners — agree that support for Second Amendment rights goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
ATTACK: “Gun laws only harm law-abiding citizens because criminals will still get guns.”
- Of course the bad guys can keep getting guns when the NRA lobbyists have rewritten our laws with so many loopholes.
- The gun lobby weakens our gun laws, flooding the illegal market with firearms and mass ammo clips — then complains that too many dangerous people have guns.
- When they’re defending a status quo that lets terrorists and convicted murderers get lethal military-style assault weapons, it’s no longer about guns for law-abiding Americans.
- For them, this is what it’s about: showing their base that there are more political battles to be won, so they can keep fundraising and selling increasingly lethal military-style weapons.
EXCUSE: “The solution is to arm more people, including teachers.”
- If more guns mean less crime, then why do we have the highest rate of gun deaths in the industrialized world? Why isn’t America with 300 million guns the safest place?
- The evidence shows that more guns mean more deaths and more tragedy. Ask a mainstream criminologist, policy analyst, doctor or public health researcher what they think about discredited right-wing media figures like John Lott who say otherwise.
- Take the example of Brendan McKown, who used his licensed gun to confront a gunman — and got shot multiple times, along with six other people. Or Mark Wilson, the firearms instructor who tried to play hero and got killed by a gunman with an AK-47.
- Instead of forcing our teachers to pack heat and our children to live in fear every day, how about letting them focus on teaching and learning and demanding that our leaders worry about keeping dangerous weapons off the streets?
EXCUSE: “The real problem is with our mental health system.”
- Every society has mentally ill people, but not every society has guns and shootingshappening all the time like we do.
- Republicans in Congress have no credibility on this. They’ve repeatedly pushed to cut theSubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — which includes children’s mental health services and youth violence prevention.
- Congress also quietly eliminated funding for schools to prepare for mass tragedies like the Newtown massacre and cut funding for school safety programs.
- Not to mention the Affordable Care Act that Republicans want to repeal — even though it strengthens insurance coverage of psychiatric illnesses.
EXCUSE: “Politicians are too afraid of the NRA to pass stronger gun laws.”
- If politicians have the courage to require rules for toy guns, cold medicine, and fertilizer, they can stir up the courage to stand up to NRA lobbyists.
- Pandering to the NRA doesn’t pay off like it used to, and it’s a myth that the gun lobby has all this power over election outcomes. Less than 1% of the millions spent by the NRA this election went to races where their candidate won.
- The NRA lobbyists don’t represent NRA members — gun owners themselves support common-sense gun laws. The politics have changed — when will the politicians?
- The reality is that the NRA’s high-powered lobbyists are a giant operation defending powerful gun manufacturers out to make money.
EXCUSE: “As an elected official, I’m worried about the NRA’s power to get me voted out.”
- Not only are you overestimating the mythical power of the NRA’s leadership, you are also misreading where the vast majority of Americans are on preventing gun violence.
- Common-sense gun laws are popular with gun owners, too.
- The only thing you should be concerned about is your boss: your constituents. And the American people are demanding you strengthen our gun laws in response to the elementary school massacre.
EXCUSE: “Public support for gun control has gone down.”
- Actually, the country is united in support of preventing gun violence. Traditional polls likeGallup are still asking the same old wrong questions from 35 years ago. The national conversation has completely changed.
- In fact, if you ask people what they think about specific proposals to prevent gun violence,they overwhelmingly support them — and that includes gun owners.
- We’re talking about popular, sensible ideas to prevent gun violence, like requiring a background check for every gun sale and banning assault weapons.
- Following the elementary school massacre, support for gun violence prevention is at a five-year high.
EXCUSE: “The Newtown shooting was a freak incident, so let’s not respond hastily.”
- It would be impossible for the policy response to the elementary school massacre to be hasty. Gun violence has plagued America for decades — and victims’ families have been trying to strengthen our gun laws for a long time.
- We’ve long had the data and research that show the legislative proposals will work. What we haven’t had are the leaders with the courage to achieve what the public wants.
- This massacre wasn’t a freak incident — school shootings are commonplace today. There have been 181 shootings at schools across the United States since Columbine.
- It doesn’t have to be this way. No more excuses for politicians to put the gun lobby ahead of our kids’ lives.
EXCUSE: “The Newtown shooting happened because God has been taken out of our schools.”
- It’s incredible that the right-wing media is blaming this horrific massacre on America’s public schools instead of the gunman and our weak gun laws, but there you have it.
EXCUSE: “Look at Israel and Switzerland — they have lots of guns and low crime.”
- Actually, Israel and Switzerland have strengthened their gun laws and take vastly different approaches than the United States.
- In both countries, there isn’t even this idea that people have a right to a gun — they must have a reason. Plus they’re required to keep proving to the permitting authority that their reason is valid.
- Also keep this in mind: America’s gun ownership rate is 12 times higher than Israel’s and twice Switzerland’s.
FACT: The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population and 50% of the world’s guns.
EXCUSE: “Violent crime is going down, so we’re safer.”
- Actually, serious gunshot injuries have gone up by almost 50% over the past ten years. Hospitals are just getting better at saving the victims’ lives and patching them up.
- How safe do you and your kids feel when children in a kindergarten class in a well-off, quiet, suburban school like Newtown can be shot to death like this?
- Despite the reality that virtually anyone can get a gun in the U.S. due to loopholes, NRA lobbyists and their allies in Congress are pushing to make it easier for them stockpile deadly weapons and take them into daycare centers, preschools, and school campuses.
CLAIM: “We must do everything possible to prevent another shooting tragedy like Newtown.”
- Then walk the talk. Words aren’t enough.
- We already have sensible public safety bills pending in Congress — proposals that even gun owners support. Leaders in Congress will introduce a set of reforms in response to the elementary school massacre on the first day of Congress next year.
- The only thing really standing in the way is politics.