Last night, a 64-year-old man opened fire on a crowd of more than 22,000 people gathered at a country music festival on the Las Vegas strip. The attack left at least 58 people dead and more than 515 injured, and those numbers continue climb. According to reports, the gunman killed himself before police stormed the hotel room from where he was shooting. Police have discovered a stockpile of weapons in the shooter’s room, including at least 10 rifles.
The at least fifty deaths make it the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Some of the most immediate reactions to this act of extreme violence are ones of shock – how can this happen in America? But these incidents happen far to often in our country. The U.S.’s gun murder rate is 25 times higher than other developed nations. The Las Vegas massacre marks the 273rd mass shooting in 275 days of 2017 in the U.S. A total of 11,652 people have died in all gun violence incidents this year, and 23,512 have been injured.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement today saying, “We will do everything in our power to get justice for your loved ones.” But will this include concrete actions on stemming the epidemic of gun violence in our nation? It’s unlikely. Current congressional leadership has actually been moving in the opposite direction, pursuing dangerous NRA-backed bills that would dramatically weaken current gun laws and endanger communities. In fact, this week, the House may vote on the SHARE Act, a bill supposedly aimed at “the preservation of sportsmen’s heritage” but that actually includes a number of giveaways to the gun lobby, including a dangerous provision that would repeal existing law regarding the regulation of gun silencers. For more than 80 years, federal law has imposed heightened regulation of silencers, as they can make it difficult for law enforcement to determine the location of a shooting and make it less likely that bystanders will recognize the sound of gunfire and report it.
Lowering the flag to half-mast is not enough. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We go through the same cycle—shock, grief, then silence—with every mass shooting. To break the cycle and protect more lives, meaningful action must be taken. This requires considering key policies, such as background checks and limiting access to weapons of war, and preventing more NRA-sponsored bills, like the SHARE Act, from making their way to the House and Senate floor.
ACTION OF THE DAY
Aid for Vegas. Wondering how you can lend a helping hand in the wake of the suffering in Las Vegas? Three simple ways to help are to donate blood, give money, and call your representative. The first two actions provide immediate relief, while the last one can affect the possibility of similar events to occur in the future. There are currently two pending bills in Congress that would make it more difficult to prevent gun-related crimes. The SHARE Act seeks to lift restrictions on the purchase of silencers, while the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would undermine existing state laws regarding who may carry loaded hidden guns in the community. Call your Representatives and tell them to oppose these dangerous bills.
Dire Straits. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still struggling to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, with over half of the population of Puerto Rico lacking access to clean water and, in many places, both water and power. This situation is only worsened by the slow and inadequate response by Trump and his administration. Despite cries from island officials begging for more relief, Trump has decided to boast about his administration’s response and malign the so-called “fake news,” rather than listen to those on the ground. In fact, he’s started attacking island officials, including San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. The last thing these American territories need are more tweets; they need a relief package from Congress and the most robust response from the federal government that is possible. To call on your member of Congress to take action to provide relief, check out Generation Progress’s tool.
CHIP. Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) officially expired yesterday, and no action has yet been taken by Congress to reauthorize it. This puts some states at immediate risk, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Utah. Federal funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) also expired yesterday. The program pairs families looking for additional support and mentoring with trained home visitors such as nurses and social workers. Funding uncertainty makes it difficult for these programs to continue, and states are already contemplating cutting services in the absence of federal funds. In fact, Utah has already started winding down CHIP in case funding is not renewed. Instead of trying to negotiate a tax cut for the top one percent or attempting sabotage of the Affordable Care Act, Congress should focus on ensured access to health care for children.
Rejected. At least 2 million new refugees fleeing conflicts in South Sudan, Myanmar, and Syria have joined the more than 17 million forcibly displaced people worldwide under the mandate of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi. But with international cooperation being replaced by individual and varying responses from different countries, an effective solution is not likely to be found. Many countries in Europe have discussed tightening the already stringent refugee entrance requirements, while President Trump has cut the United States’ refugee cap by more than half. With a growing number of refugees experiencing trauma, malnutrition, and violence, we need to demonstrate cooperation and a dedication to human rights now more than ever.
The Other Repeal Efforts. With all eyes on healthcare, attacks on an array of other programs and policies have flown under the radar. Learn about the bill that would gut the Americans with Disabilities Act quietly moving through Congress, how DC’s new paid leave law is at risk of repeal, and more on the latest episode of Off-Kilter, a podcast by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
UNDER THE RADAR
March For Racial Justice and for Black Women. This weekend, thousands of people in Washington, D.C. took to the streets to call for racial justice and to lift up the unique and intersecting oppressions that plague Black Women and the Black community in the U.S. The march included some high-profile attendees, such as “feminist activist Gloria Steinem, Muslim rights activist Linda Sarsour, and Philando Castile’s mother Valerie Castile.” Check out some of the best signs from the march here. This march comes right on the heels of Trump’s attack on NFL players who are taking a knee during the national anthem at football games. The March for Racial Justice and for Black Women was also an opportunity for activists to call out the Trump administration for rolling back key civil rights protections.