By The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson
It happened again. This time it was a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, of 19 second-, third- and fourth -grade students, along with two teachers, killed by a teenager who had just turned 18 and bought himself a gift of two high-powered military weapons designed to kill people in war and 375 rounds of ammunition for $3,500, which he used to shoot down his mostly young victims like rabid dogs.
For an event to be considered a mass shooting it requires that at least four people are killed or wounded. Anything less is not considered a mass shooting. So far this year we are at 214 mass shootings, an average of about 10 per week.
The red and blue teams immediately jumped to their customary positions. The red team in the past blamed young people for watching too many violent video games. Now mental illness seems to be the red team’s dominant rationale. And their solutions range from arming teachers to hardening schools and many other ideas in between.
What’s the red team’s strategy? Look over here! Look over there at any shiny object other than that we live in a country where citizens own more than 400 million guns in a population of 330 million with a long history of violence growing out of an ideology of white supremacy over racial minorities – Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. Many whites are now advocating, expecting or preparing for another civil war much of it based on a racist “white replacement theory.”
The blue team un-politically mostly advocates for H.R. 8 a fairly comprehensive common sense gun regulation bill passed in the House but sitting on Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s desk because Republicans are universally opposed — possibly along with the usual suspect Democrats Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema — and because it requires 60 votes or an end to the filibuster. It will never pass in this Congress.
Democrats are being un-political because they are still trying to persuade Republicans to support common sense gun legislation through moral persuasion and rational arguments. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are not interested. The only replacement theory Democrats should be advancing is replacing members of the red team with members of the blue team. This group of congressional Republicans is about power not being moral or rational. They have to be taken on and taken out politically — defeated and replaced.
What should be the Democrat’s strategy? There will likely be many motivating events and issues that should inspire Democrats to go to the polls for the November 8 mid-term elections. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court may play a big part in this regard as early as June. The Robert’s Court may overturn Roe v. Wade and galvanize women voters. It may upend or weaken affirmative action and activate racial minorities and women to rush to the voting booth. It likely will declare a New York gun law unconstitutional leading to a national policy of “open carry” awakening common sense gun regulation advocates to vote in record numbers.
But to make sure greater gun safety and common sense gun laws supported by anywhere from 70 percent to 90 percent of the American people are on the ballot in November Democrats must do the following.
Break up the dozen or more individual parts of a comprehensive package of gun safety legislation – e.g., an assault weapons ban, background checks, Red Flag law and more – and make the House and the Senate members vote on them individually. There should be coordination between Pelosi in the House and Schumer in the Senate. The House should vote on Tuesday and the Senate on Thursday on one issue at a time, one a week, week-after-week all the way to November.
There is the possibility that one of them may actually pass. That would be good news and start us down a path of greater gun safety. But strategically put it at the beginning so that the closer we get to November 8 voters will mostly remember all the “No” votes cast by Republicans on common sense gun laws that would make the American people safer.
Democrats must stop being naïve about negotiating with Republicans over guns because their strategy is to delay, divert, deny and defeat Democrats in November. Democrats must flip the table.
The Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures.