The news: The father of a young man killed in this past weekend's misogyny and rage-fueled Isla Vista, Calif., rampage has a message for politicians calling him to relay their condolences: Stop it.
Richard Martinez lost his only son in the mass killing perpetrated by a Santa Barbara City College student who killed several others and himself. Soon after, Martinez appeared at a press conference to blame the shooting on "craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA."
In a follow-up interview, Martinez had this to say to the members of Congress and others who reached out to him after:
"I don't care about your sympathy. I don't give a shit that you feel sorry for me. Get to work and do something. I'll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn't impress me."
Martinez then urged the public to join him in demanding "immediate action" on guns from Congress.
"I'm going to ask every person I can find to send a postcard to every politician they can think of with three words on it: Not one more. People are looking for something to do. I'm asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough," he said.
Will it do anything? The events in Isla Vista were horrific. But it's very unlikely that the Republican-dominated House of Representatives will sign off on anything resembling another comprehensive gun control bill like the Brady Law or Federal Assault Weapons Ban, both passed in 1994. Gun control is basically dead in the water.
As the Washington Post's Paul Waldman notes, the impasse is due entirely to GOP and industry opposition:
"The GOP confronts the same dynamic it does on other issues, including immigration, where safe conservative districts make it all but impossible for the party to moderate its stance, even when doing so is in its broader long-term interest.
"So, no, this massacre isn’t going to change the prospects for national legislation on guns. Nor will the next one, or the one after that, or the steady accumulation of thousands of gun deaths, or the dozens of kids who are killed in accidental shootings every year."
Waldman writes that gun safety proponents will have to track their progress not in years, but likely decades — the same amount of time it took the NRA to build up a nearly unchallengeable national political front for the gun rights movement. Even measures like ensuring background checks for all gun purchases by closing "personal sales" loopholes or instituting a system to keep the mentally ill away from firearms is unlikely to pass, let alone a ban on any specific kind of firearm.
Seventy-eight percent of Americans are in favor of stronger firearms controls, including more thorough background checks and psychological screening of gun purchasers. But if the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., or a congresswoman being the victim of an attempted assassination can't break Congress' anti-gun control fervor, it's very unlikely this latest incident will. This quick comparison of direct donations to gun-related causes via the Sunlight Foundation shows how hard a nut this will be to crack:
However: Raising public outcry and building an anti-gun movement to match the NRA and the firearms lobby is the only way to realistically expect any kind of arms control legislation to pass. In the 1990s, Australia eliminated mass shootings entirely and dramatically lowered their firearms death rate by implementing a comprehensive gun control regime that bought back hundreds of thousands of guns and banned fast-firing long arms. It followed mass public outcry after another mass shooting.
While such a measure might be politically unrealistic — or never happen — in the United States, the only way we'll make progress is through a long and tiring battle. And Martinez is going to need a lot of help.