ALEX WONG VIA GETTY IMAGES
Democratic Members of Congress dramatic sit-in to force the upcoming vote on a guns was an odd mix of the heroically hopeful and the profoundly depressing.
Breaking the rules in order to demand and win the right to be heard is a proud tradition to carry on and those who participated deserve nothing but praise and thanks. They were brave and they showed a passion that is too often said to be confined to the other side in this most ridiculous of debates. That alone should bolster the sense of what is possible to achieve in gun violence prevention.
But the outcome of that passionate display also puts into stark relief just how far we still have to go in disarming the National Rifle Association — which, as we show in our latest film Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA is the sales and marketing arm of the gun industry.
The outcome, of course, is that Speaker Ryan will allow for a single vote on a bill that, in addition to raising significant civil liberties concerns, shows that we are still operating in the political and rhetorical world the NRA built. The bill would slow the process of a person on the “no fly list,” being able to purchase a gun.
While publicly the NRA is trying to appear rational about this bill, behind closed doors they are probably gleeful. After all, by focusing on this list, Congress is confirming the NRA’s ridiculous assertion that the Orlando nightclub shooting had anything to do with terrorism.
The NRA makes this assertion because terrorism is, well, terrifying. And what could be a better sales pitch for guns than “the government can’t defend you against terrorism?”
In Making a Killing we focus on policies that not only will save countless lives on their own but also lay the groundwork for changing the outrageous landscape in which the gun violence prevention movement operates.
Here’s one that it’s hard to believe any one would object to: Require adults to take basic, reasonable steps to keep guns out of the hands of children. Mandating safe gun storage would have saved the life of 14-year-old Eddie Holmes, whose mother tells the story in Making a Killing of his being shot unintentionally by another child with a gun left loaded and easily in reach.
For the law and order crowd, how about fighting for smart, strong laws that prevent straw purchases and other tactics used by gun traffickers to get these weapons off the streets of cities like Chicago — where are they aren’t sold. That would be a start in addressing the epidemic of mass shootings — the non-picturesque ones – that don’t lead to votes in Congress. It’s devastating to think of how many of the children in our film, shot down in city streets, on the steps of a church, in a park for heaven’s sake, would be alive today if such laws were on the books and enforced.
In the fight over the no fly bill, the NRA seems willing to accept a waiting period while the potential gun purchaser is investigated in this very special circumstance. A waiting period that actually matters — one that was instituted across the board for all gun purchases — could prevent not only murders but suicides, which are huge, unsung portion of the deaths by guns. As we note in the film, research shows that a startling proportion of those suicides — including potential the death by his own hand of Kerry Lewiecki — could have been prevented with just a few hours even between having the idea and getting a gun to carry it out.
There is so much more, so many ways we could keep ourselves safer if we chose to, keep our kids alive and out of harm’s way. The first step is to change the way we think about and talk about guns and gun violence.
Sitting down is one thing. Now it is time for those who did not participate in this historic moment to stand up — to the gun industry and the NRA, which continues its crusade to turn tragedy in to cash.