On Feb. 26, a 51-year-old man walked into his workplace at the sprawling Molson Coors campus in Milwaukee and opened fire, killing five of his coworkers before turning the gun on himself.
On Feb. 27, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly held a campaign fundraiser at a gun range in Brookfield, right outside the same city that had seen six killed by gun violence just one day prior.
Noting the disregard Kelly’s campaign had for the deadly incident, Wisconsin Democrats labeled the event as tasteless. The Democrats were quick to point out that hosting the fundraiser at a gun range was salt in the wound.
But this isn’t about being tasteless or insensitive. Kelly’s campaign is perpetuating a perplexing theme in the GOP — completely ignoring signals which indicate a need for reform and standing their ground at all costs. Regardless of the number of tragedies where gunmen waltz into crowded spaces and mow down human life with impunity, political gridlock persists. While Democrats often push for reform, Republicans are keen to stand in its way.
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This should not be a partisan issue. Few Democrats — Kelly’s challenger Judge Jill Karofsky included— believe in completely stripping this country’s population of their Second Amendment rights. Rather, they support gun laws that do at least something about the obviously apparent problem that we are facing.
Mass shooting statistics detract from the real issue. While they matter, they are often unclear and misapplied. We may have the most shootings annually, but adjusted for population size many countries experience worse numbers. Norway has an annual death rate from mass shootings per million people that is higher than the U.S., yet the comparisons are irrelevant.
The fact that American politicians are not only unwilling to try to combat the issue but go as far as to seemingly flaunt firearms after a tragedy is bizarre. This is what Kelly has done. What motivation do he and other Republicans have to refuse even attempting to save lives?
A staunch and brave defense of the constitution perhaps?
No. The constitution is meant to be amended. The second amendment — emphasis on amendment — is not named as such for fun. The Constitution is supposed to change with the times. Every year the United States sees countless innocents gunned down in schools, theaters, festivals, nightclubs and workplaces — yet there is no action. Politicians like Kelly use the issue to divide people and to ensure that a loyal partisan base votes within party lines. Instead of what they should be doing — taking a step back and addressing the broader issue.
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Is it certain that increased background checks, or a ban on large magazines and fully automatic weapons, or more severe penalties for unlicensed firearms will make a difference in the rate of mass shootings? There’s some evidence to say they will, but it is not certain. Yet the fact that lawmakers refuse to make an attempt at minimizing the damage is worrisome, and it reveals where their priorities lie.
At the University of Wisconsin, students should not be putting their energy toward feeling offended by Kelly and his campaign’s clear ignorance of a massive issue. They should not feel attacked by his refusal to acknowledge the prevalence of gun violence and the needless loss of life it causes as a result of the firearm laws in this country not doing enough.
But students should feel compelled to respond and act. Even those who own guns, who enjoy shooting them for sport or who hold them for protection should still be able to visualize the need for some type of progress. It’s not about minimizing individual rights, it’s about minimizing unnecessary death.
Hysteria and anger will not help, but action will. Voting and petitioning your local representatives are small steps that can help to address a problem that is slowly becoming an expected part of American life.
Luke Carmosino (lc[email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in history and economics.