By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan
Gun worship is transcendent in the United States, with 400 million guns in circulation – more guns than people – and only cursory controls on who can buy or access them. Firearms are fetishized, celebrated and brandished throughout our society, delivering a devastating daily death toll unknown anywhere else in the world. This idolatry reveres above all else the semiautomatic AR-15, dubbed “America’s rifle” by the NRA. In the wake of back to back massacres in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, both committed by 18-year-old men with legally-purchased AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles, victims and their advocates are pushing for genuine gun control. But the Senate – with so many of its members in thrall to and funded by the gun lobby – will only posture, pray, hold a moment or two of silence…and then do virtually nothing.
“Our two youngest children, Julian, 8 and Lexi 10…were at Robb Elementary,” Kimberly Mata-Rubio said in testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Wednesday, speaking remotely from Uvalde. “On the morning of May 24, 2022, I dropped Lexi and Julian off at school a little after 7 a.m. My husband and I returned to campus…at 10:30 a.m. for Lexi’s award ceremony. Lexi received the good citizen award, and was also recognized for receiving all A’s…we took photos with her before asking her to pose for a picture with her teacher, Mr. Reyes. That photo, her last photo ever, was taken at approximately 10:54 a.m.”
The teenage shooter arrived at the school about half an hour later, and, while 19 police officers reportedly hovered outside a classroom door for close to an hour, he methodically killed 19 children and two of their teachers.
“Today, we stand for Lexi, and, in her voice, we demand action,” Kimberly Mata-Rubio, who works as a reporter for the Uvalde Leader-News, continued. “We seek a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. We understand that for some reason, to some people, to people with money, to people who fund political campaigns, that guns are more important than children, so at this moment we ask for progress. We seek to raise the age to purchase these weapons from 18 to 21 years of age. We seek red flag laws, stronger background checks. We also want to repeal gun manufacturers liability immunity.”
Zeneta Everhart of Buffalo also spoke. Her 21-year-old son Zaire Goodman worked at the Tops supermarket and was wounded there on May 14th, when a white supremacist shooter killed ten people, all of them African American. “To the lawmakers who feel that we do not need stricter gun laws, let me paint a picture for you: My son Zaire has a hole in the right side of his neck, two on his back and another on his left leg caused by an exploding bullet from an AR-15. As I clean his wounds, I can feel pieces of that bullet in his back. Shrapnel will be left inside of his body for the rest of his life. Now, I want you to picture that exact scenario for one of your children.”
On the same day as the hearing, the U.S. House passed, along mostly partisan lines, the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” which includes limited gun control provisions such as raising the minimum age for purchasing semiautomatic weapons from 18 to 21 and banning ammunition clips that hold more than ten rounds (excluding those already privately owned). This bill is presumed dead on arrival in the Senate, where it lacks any chance of reaching the sixty votes needed to overcome the guaranteed Republican filibuster.
AR-15s have enthusiastic defenders among Senate Republicans. Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy told Vice they’re used for “killing feral pigs in the, whatever, the middle of Louisiana.” South Dakota Senator John Thune said, “In my state, they use them to shoot prairie dogs and, you know, other types of varmints.”
While Republican Senators protect the rights of a few to slaughter pigs and other “varmints” with military-grade assault weapons, Uvalde’s only pediatrician, Dr Roy Guerrero, described to the House Oversight Committee what he saw in the hospital as he responded to the mass shooting:
“Two children, whose bodies had been so pulverized by the bullets fired at them, decapitated, whose flesh had been so ripped apart, that the only clue as to their identities were the blood-spattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them.”
The doctor ended by calling on elected officials to take action on gun control:
“You are the doctors and our country is the patient. We are lying on the operating table, riddled with bullets like the children of Robb Elementary and so many other schools. We are bleeding out and you are not there.”
We need a comprehensive assault weapons ban, now.