How Swatties can be the change we want to see this election
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, 91 people are killed on average by gun violence each day. Nearly 100 people will lose their lives in the United States today. Each person lost to gun violence has parents, friends, siblings, or even children of their own. At the end of Magill Walk, t-shirts identifying the names and ages of victims of gun violence in Delaware County commemorate each individual life lost. Walking by is a reminder of each life that was cut too short, while emphasizing the failure of our leaders in all levels of government to abate the problem of gun violence. Innocent lives are being taken from us daily, and it seems that nothing is being done about this tragedy. Congress failed to enact gun control legislation after the worst mass shooting in American history in June, despite both a Senate filibuster and a House sit-in by Democrats. The sentiment on our generally liberal campus is that common-sense gun control measures are the obvious choice. Instituting more background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and banning assault rifles all seem like simple ways to reduce gun violence. If people with histories of violent crime can’t get guns, and guns that can shoot dozens of people in seconds are removed from circulation, many gun deaths could be prevented. So why doesn’t the Republican majority in the legislature follow that same logic? There is a huge gap between what Congress and state legislatures are doing and what the people want done about gun violence. Many common sense measures are even supported among gun owners themselves, so why are the trends in gun legislation getting worse?
There are many answers to this question, but as voters we have the opportunity to help solve the problem. The NRA is one of the most vocal interest groups in our political sphere and they donate millions of dollars to elected officials to vote against gun control legislation. It often seems like legislators represent interest groups and not their constituents. The sheer amount of influence that lobbying groups have over our elected officials is disheartening, and the way that influence prevents the change Americans deserve is appalling. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and daughters and sons are dying each day because of the gun epidemic, and our elected officials have done almost nothing about it. To many, it seems like the average person can’t do anything about gun violence because of gridlock in Washington. Despite an almost 15 hour filibuster in the Senate by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut after the Orlando shooting, no gun legislation was enacted into law. State legislatures aren’t doing any better, either. The state of Missouri recently actually made it easier to get guns by removing mandatory state background checks, permits, and weapons training requirements for concealed carry. These trends contradict the growing trends among voters: people across party lines support common sense gun legislation. This all seems bleak, but we, as members of the American electorate and students of Swarthmore College, have an opportunity to help reverse these trends in November.
This election is crucial, and not just because of the presidential race. Down-ballot races—elections for local positions, state legislatures, and Congress that are all located under the nominees for president on voting ballots—are crucial in making change in the United States. It matters who wins the congressional races and it matters who wins the state Senate and the state House of Representatives elections. While choosing a qualified president who has clear policies to help Americans is absolutely imperative, if we let legislators continue to vote down gun legislation stay in office, then the laws cannot be changed and the gun epidemic will rage on. Researching the candidates running and their stances on guns ought to be required reading for election day. Making an informed choice at the voting booth is one of the biggest ways we can have our voices heard. The opinions of young people are often ignored by lawmakers because our age demographic has one of the lowest voter turnout rates. This fall is the time to change that. Swatties should feel a moral obligation not just to vote, but to get involved in the campaigns for candidates that share their views. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, our state representative, has an office in the Ville and is up for re-election. Her frequent interaction with student volunteers makes working on her campaign a great way to have your voice heard in Harrisburg. Gun violence can’t be stopped overnight, but making sure that the person elected to represent you is fighting for common sense gun laws is a great start.
Too many people have been unjustly killed by gun violence in Delaware County and across the entire United States for Swarthmore students to sit on the sidelines in this election. We have a moral responsibility to be politically active throughout the election cycle and make sure that the change we want is enacted into law. This means registering to vote, going to vote, and getting involved in campaigns. It may mean calling your senator’s office and telling them how you feel about the way they voted on gun legislation over the summer. Interest groups have a lot of influence with elected officials, but so do voters. Contacting your lawmaker and telling them how you feel can affect the way they vote on legislation and volunteering on campaigns can help ensure that someone who shares your beliefs gets into office.
All hope is not lost for reducing gun violence. Even in Missouri, Democrat challenger Jason Kander is looking to oust NRA endorsed Senator Roy Blunt. Kander, a military veteran, aired what is arguably the best campaign ad of the election cycle, in which he assembles an assault rifle blindfolded while discussing his support of background checks after his opponent criticised him for his stance on guns. There are young people fueling his campaign at colleges in Missouri, and Swatties have the opportunity to help elect candidates that will fight for gun control legislation in the Senate as well. As a community, we can help enact change that we believe in, and it starts with political participation.