Every year, Americans continue to witness hundreds of mass shootings. The scenario has become almost mundane: mass shootings are taking place, politicians are outraged and offer banalities, and the news cycle continues until the next shoot. And now, after the horrific events in Uvaldis, almost a decade after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it seems that hardly anything will be done to further arms security. What can progressives do to bring about significant change and, ultimately, to ensure that popular, nationwide support for new arms legislation really becomes a reality?
Inaction against gun violence seems to be a major pillar of American culture, and many lawmakers simply seem to lack the appetite to address this issue, especially given the strong influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the minority voices of firearms. owners. In such an environment, how can we continue to work on an issue that is so structurally challenging?
Moulitsa welcomed Volski to the show to share his deep knowledge of the movement to reform arms laws, especially at this politically charged moment. Recognizing the difficulties faced by the movement, Volskis highlighted specific cross-cutting challenges that are important to focus on:
There is an amendment that is challenging, there are structural challenges in the Senate that are really making progress difficult – I am, of course, talking about failure and over-representation of rural countries. And then there is the very successful and powerful lobby that was able to solve the problem and really create an identity around it. So it’s not just about the weapon. That’s all the gun represents in terms of masculinity, racism and conservative values. They are difficult to climb mountains.
Working to change gun laws has been an ongoing challenge for Volsky and Guns Down America over the past decade, and Volsky outlined some important ways he takes care of his mental health to ensure he can continue to give his full strength to the fight. In particular, he noted that he spends very little time following or reading the personal stories of victims of gun violence and deliberately avoids the details of the shooting or the words of the shooter. “[This is how] I somehow go on and make sure I don’t always be in a fetal position crying, ”he said. “I’m just trying to focus on: what strategy can I develop? What political strategy, advocacy strategy can I develop to make progress on this? Change the system that allows this kind of massacre?”
Volskis also explained the importance of moments like Uvalde, as they underline and demand leadership, which is almost always lacking on the issue of gun violence on all other days of the year. Important Democrat figures such as Pres. Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promise Americans when they will vote that they will prioritize the prevention of gun violence and fight for progress.
However, when they have the right to make significant progress on this issue, they choose not to do so, Volski said, adding that it has been such an incredible and deep source of dissatisfaction:
At the moment, I don’t care what you have to say. We do not need you to comfort the people every time. I think that’s nice. But what we would like is a clear and tangible plan for what you will do to help make progress on this. And the fact that the White House has chosen to treat this president as a simple bystander who has completely entrusted other people with the legislature or executive work has instead decided that he is the best as a cheerleader to ask others to act or explain everything to journalists. , which he can not do, I am, frankly, a real shame.
According to Wolsky, proponents of arms control are unhappy that Biden has not even set up a White House Arms Violence Prevention Bureau to simply investigate the problem and possible solutions. In fact, he has hardly done more than just express his condolences and even less responsibility for the change he is calling for:
After these twin shootings, he chose not to outline the tangible steps he would take to help us build safer communities. And he allowed Congress to take two weeks off, not to put them all together and use the thirty years of experience he told us in bringing Democrats and Republicans together to get things done. But it no longer matters. Obviously, none of this was real when it came to this issue.
What shockes me most at this point is that other voices in my movement and other voices in the wider progressive movement do not expect him to do more. That he gets a full pass that he has no plan. That they have no vision or strategy because Americans die like children die. And I think it’s very unique on this issue: if we had an attack from abroad, if suddenly something happened to the climate, you could expect this president to really do things, not just say things – the problem is that in this there is simply no muscle memory in the matter. There is no muscle memory about what the action actually looks like. And what I’ve been arguing about for the last couple of weeks is: it’s his job to change that scenario and build that kind of muscle memory.
“If a politician cannot accept 90% support for background checks, etc., and cannot turn that support into tangible political pressure, then perhaps it is not a very good politician,” Volskis said.
“Isn’t that the story of the Democratic Party?” – The Moulits mocked.
“As it turns out, so many more Americans want to see background checks, but we still don’t [them]? Our Democratic leaders fail to fight every time. They choose not to fight for this issue… [or] invest in the communities closest to the pain… [if they at least tried] to do something tangible, they may fail, but they may turn to the electorate and say, “we tried,” Volskis added.
The campaign to make arms rights and the identity of arms ownership so prominent took decades, but in the end it has been very successful. Voļskis noted that the attitude has changed historically – the result of many years of NRA propaganda and marketing of arms manufacturers. He added that it was undoubtedly a systematic decision to link arms ownership to the concepts of control, personal rights and freedoms, and masculinity. “[We need to] to create a space where identity is so much harder to separate [at] than any policy preferences… [and] think about how to create an identity in terms of security. “
Moulits asked about the factors that make American resistance to gun laws so fierce. According to Volskis, it is difficult to avoid the unique history of America based on the conquest of other people and land – a history that brought weapons into the picture, first subjugating the Indians and then the African Americans who were brought here as slaves. . The firearm was also at the forefront of moving west, helping white Americans destroy entire indigenous communities and driving a xenophobic narrative of personal protection against other “savages”:
During this time, especially in the 1850s and 60s, firearms became mass-produced for the first time and were indeed sold on a much larger scale. And some of the early American manufacturers very quickly realized that packing a firearm in this notion of “noticeable destiny” is a real force as the country expands to the west. In particular, urbanization means defining the owner of a firearm as someone who will protect you from the ‘immigrants’ who are going to attack you and kill you. This unequal individuality on which this American myth is based.
Manufacturers’ marketing departments realized early on, and Volskis said they could sell more weapons if their sales offerings were imbued with this kind of image and this kind of mythology. Thus, they did so deliberately for decades. Combining this type of marketing with our history was an explosive combination, and looking back at our country’s history from its origins through the civil rights movement and the Jim Crow era, it becomes even clearer how firearms were used to subjugate African Americans and others. quite brutally oppressed communities in power struggles. Thus, the complicated and overloaded notion that arms ownership is a political identity, Volski argued, makes it particularly difficult to advocate for more restrictive arms laws:
You are moving fast to the present day, and I think you realize very quickly that even when we are in 2022, you cannot part with firearms ownership, especially for people who have a political identity, from notions of masculinity. from the notions of white power… it is all intertwined. And while we, as a movement, as a country, cannot figure out how you can distinguish between these different concepts, we will indeed have this challenge.
The history of militia and arms rights also provided the ideological basis for the events of January 6, Volskis said. He also added that putting pressure on corporate America, especially grocery chains, which often donate to lawmakers who oppose arms control, could be the final push to bring about real change.
Reflecting on this important and ongoing debate on arms control and how to bring about real change and implement life-saving policies, Moulitsa reminded those present of the importance of voting.
“Mid-term elections are elections based on voter turnout – how much people care. And we need to care more than Republicans, “he urged. “We need it. We have no choice.”
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