This morning the U.S. woke up to news that yet another senseless act of gun violence had claimed the lives of innocent individuals. The shooting of Virginia’s WDBJ-TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward took place on-air and spread throughout social media, for anyone to see. It's too common of an occurrence — a mass shooting gets covered on the news, the public debates gun control for a while, then it all happens again.
There is never a simple response to gun violence. Whenever something like this occurs, social media is inevitably filled with people calling for increased access to mental health care or for stricter gun control laws. Then there are the people who argue back, claiming that gun control won’t solve anything. The issue is far too complicated to be solved through any of those means, but the repeated instances of public shootings have made it clear that a culture of gun violence not only exists — but is thriving — in America.
President Obama has been in office for multiple tragic shootings. The shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the shooting at the church in Charleston and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut were among the most horrific, but far from the only examples. Obama has tried to make gun control a pressing issue, but he’s failed to pass any significant legislation due to an always confrontational Congress. At least he hasn’t been afraid to take a stance, opening the issue up for debate yet ultimately passing it along to his successor.
If debate moderators understand how desperate of an issue gun violence is in America, the 2016 presidential candidates will be forced to define their position on the issue during the campaign cycle. On the right, it’s expected that most candidates will support Second Amendment rights. On the left, the answer is not so clear. If Democrats rally behind the issue of gun control, Bernie Sanders could have a difficult time winning the nomination.
Compared to Clinton, Sanders leans toward the right on the issue of gun control. His views are somewhat skewed by the fact that he represents Vermont. “I think guns and gun control is an issue that needs to be discussed,” Sanders told NPR after the Charleston, South Carolina shooting. “Let me add to that, I think urban America has got to respect what rural America is about, where 99 percent of the people in my state who hunt are law abiding people.” Sanders can’t speak out against guns because his constituents won’t allow him. However, Sanders has also voted for expanded background checks and a ban on assault weapons. He understands the issue is more nuanced than many politicians describe it — wanting to do something about our culture of violence while respecting those that use guns lawfully.
If these mass shootings continue occurring, however, Clinton’s stricter stance against guns could be more attractive to Democratic voters. “We’ve got to rein in what has become an almost article of faith that anybody can have a gun anywhere, anytime,” Clinton has said, according to OnTheIssues. “And I don’t believe that is in the best interest of the vast majority of people.” Hopefully both candidates will have the opportunity to discuss the issue in a public forum sometime in the near future. The nation needs to hear thoughtful debate as to how to fix our obvious problem, and the next president of the U.S. needs to follow up on that action.
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