How to Destroy the Gun Violence Economy

Gun violence isn't random - it's an industry. So, how do you dismantle it?

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by Dr. G.S. Potter | #RealityCheck Contributor | @doc_strategy

Just as the gun industry has diversified its markets and offensively moved to protect them, gun violence control advocates must defend against these moves using the tools needed to counter each maneuver. In other words, there is no one strategy that will stop gun violence. It will take the coordination of multiple counter-strategies to curb its distribution. These counter-strategies must also be applied at the federal, state, and local levels.

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Federal Level Counter-Strategies

The Supreme Court

As described above, the most powerful SCOTUS rulings expanding and protecting gun violence distributors and consumers are Washington, D.C. vs Heller and Graham vs. Connor. The first creates an individual right to gun ownership under the Second Amendment. The second allows law enforcement officers to gun down anyone they perceive as suspicious. Heller obliterated the 2nd Amendment’s Constitutional right to a well-regulated militia. Connor removed the 4th Amendment. It will take the Supreme Court to overturn these verdicts and restore the Constitutional rights of American citizens.

As the court has become increasingly conservative, though, this is unlikely to happen.

In order to successfully overturn Heller and Connor, focus must be placed on re-balancing the Supreme Court. Specifically, the seat stolen from Barack Obama and filled with Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh must be retaken and future SCOTUS seats to be filled by Donald Trump must be emptied and reassigned. Congress has the power to impeach Supreme Court Justices. In order for gun violence control advocates to take back the Supreme Court, they must take Congress from the party supported by the gun industry and put it in the hands of Democratic officials that will act on impeachment. Don’t say it’s impossible, because Republicans would definitely do it if they were in a similar situation.

Congress

Congress can also pass legislation that would allow for nation-wide background checks, bans on assault weapons, limits to concealed carry laws, registration and data infrastructures, penalties for illegal interstate purchasing and trafficking, waiting periods, and a number of other measures that can protect citizens from gun violence.

In February, the Democratic-controlled House did finally pass two gun control bills with a focus on strengthening background checks for firearms purchases. But they aren’t expected to pass the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. As long as the GOP controls any or all parts of Congress these measures will not fully pass.

The most important action an individual can take to stop gun violence at the Congressional level in the current context is to vote Democrats into the House and the Senate. Once the Democrats take control of the full Congress (not half the Congress), they can pass gun violence control laws. Advocates must ensure that Democratic candidates formally commit to doing so and that their votes only go to Congressional candidates willing to confront the gun violence industry both rhetorically and legislatively.


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State Level Counter-Strategies

At the state level, governors and attorneys general play the most powerful role in gun violence control. Governors can curb gun violence in the citizenry by passing statewide gun control laws while attorneys general can prosecute murder consumers in law enforcement.

While there is little to no chance that these restrictions will pass through a Republican controlled Congress, states can still protect their people by passing their own legislative controls. Among the most important moves that can be made to curb gun violence are background checks, eliminating access for domestic violence offenders and violent criminals, proof of residence legislation, and restoration of the social safety net. A number of state Governors have signed gun violence bills into law since the mass shooting in Parkland. Democratic governors in all states should be pressured to follow suit and continue to restrict the diffusion of gun violence through their states.

State attorney generals can also be more aggressive in ensuring cops that kill go to trial. Police kill an average of around 1000 people per year. Between 2005 and 2017, only 80 law enforcement officials were brought to trial for their crimes, and of these, less than 30 were convicted. It is the responsibility of the Attorney General to file charges against police officers that kill civilians — and they are not doing their jobs. Gun violence control advocates must run and elect Attorney Generals that are willing to send cops that kill to court.

Again, similar to action on the federal level: pay attention to your state legislative and gubernatorial races. One of the most important actions an individual can take to stop gun violence at the state level is to vote Democrats into Governors’ seats and in to power in their state capitols.

Local-level Counter-strategies

According to the Giffords Law Center, there are 43 states that have enacted “broad preemption statutes” that prevent localities from passing their own gun control laws. Localities must focus their energy on pressuring state legislatures to repeal these laws. Until they do, it will be all but impossible for them to take action to protect their communities from gun violence. Again, ensuring that state officials that are willing to take action to repeal these preemptive statutes and give local legislatures the ability to combat the gun violence industry themselves.

Finally, left-wing politicians must become comfortable with playing hardball with the right-wing gun industry. Specifically, they would benefit greatly by adopting one of the GOP’s most effective strategies: Don’t ask for permission, demand a court order.

Take voting rights, for example. The GOP engages in numerous illegal and unconstitutional efforts to prevent people of color from accessing the polls. Rather than acknowledging the illegality of their actions, they strategically implement their plans and let them be carried out until (and often after) the court tells them to stop.

Gun violence control advocates could similarly encourage cities and states to pass legislation and wait for the right-wing to challenge it in court. This would create pockets of protection for the people while tying up legal and financial channels of the gun industry.

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Midterm & Presidential Elections

Nothing can be done to stop gun violence unless people that are willing to take action are put in positions of power to do so. Last year’s Congressional midterm election was the best chance to do just that, and the upcoming 2020 presidential election is another big moment to do the same, allowing Democrats to not only retake the White House, but the Senate, too.

Midterm and presidential cycle elections are an opportunity to flip Congress, flip the White House, elect new governors and position new Attorneys General. If gun control advocates want to change the game, they have to change their players. If they want to end gun violence in their communities, they must end the gun violence industry’s control of every level of government.

Gun violence is a product. It is designed and distributed by gun manufacturers and consumed by citizens and law enforcement. Like any market, it can and should be regulated. To change the field and control the game, though, we have to control the players and make the right moves at the right time. Time will tell whether or not gun violence advocates seize that opportunity, or hand it over to the murder marketers — along with tens of thousands of bodies targeted for consumption.

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