When 30,000 people a year in this country die at the barrel of a gun, and millions more are unable to live their lives free of fear for their personal safety and security, this isn’t just an emergence; it’s a human rights crisis.
Last year, members of the House and the Senate made a number of bold gestures against the scourge of gun violence in the United States. This is more than just an emergency.
But while filibusters and sit-ins may help center attention on the issue and move the dialogue along, what is needed are comprehensive measures that effectively limit access to guns for those with a history of violence. Universal background checks can keep guns out of the hands of those with such records, including people who’ve committed domestic abuse, or who have mental illness that poses a threat to others.
But instead of background checks, members of Congress decided to focused on two sets of measures: terrorism watchlist-based gun control and sweeping surveillance powers for the FBI. At best these are distractions; at worst, they are empty gestures that co-opt public concern over gun violence. Whatever the intentions of the proposals, they are wrong: They implicitly make gun violence about a slice of the population – scapegoating American Muslims in the process – rather than addressing gun violence as a large-scale crisis requiring system-wide solutions.
Members of Congress supportive of the watchlist legislation pose it as the common sense fix to gun violence. But the slogan “no fly, no buy” ignores the reality: The government’s watchlists are seriously flawed. In 2014, the government disclosed that it had added 1.5 million names to its terrorism watchlist over the past five years. One former FBI agent told “The Intercept” that the watchlist system was “revving out of control.” A system this expansive should have strong safeguards to protect due process and ensure people can be removed from the list if they prove error. The no-fly list, which is the focus of some of the proposed legislation, does not.
Another distraction from background checks, are proposals to expand FBI suspicion less surveillance. Members of Congress, including those who oppose gun control, are pushing expansion of Patriot Act provisions that allow the FBI to secretly gain access to information about Internet browsing and emails without a court order. They are implying, without much in the way of facts, that greater power would have enabled the FBI to prevent the Orlando shooting. These proposals are akin to telling national security officials they should assemble more haystacks, rather than get better at locating the proverbial needles. In some cases, they’re also a blatant attempt to blunt public outrage and redirect it – so that gun violence does not lead to gun control reform.
Gun violence in the United States will not be solved by throwing marginalized groups under the bus to manufacture the appearance of progress. What is needed is bipartisan comprehensive legislation that addresses the current faulty patchwork of federal, state and local laws that so far have failed to protect anyone from the threat of gun violence. Although it’s unlikely that you – President-elect Trump, will push for the reform we need It’s important for you to recognize that the victims, survivors and our allies will not be silenced, we will continue to fight, to ensure that the United States; lives up to its obligations to protect it’s citizens. It does not serve any of us to respond to gun violence in this country as anything less than the human rights crisis that it is.