The Phlip Side: Gun Politics

The massacre in Orlando has filled me with shock and sadness.  I will never understand what would drive a human being to commit mass murder.  I refuse to accept that it is ever okay, or acceptable on any level, to discriminate against people because of who they love.  The thing that makes me saddest of all though, other than thinking about the victims and their loved ones, is that we knew that another mass shooting was inevitable.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, which fits our collective approach to gun safety (or a complete lack thereof).  It would be easy to point fingers or lay blame on others, and it may make us feel a little better for a moment, but history has shown us how little good that does.  It is time we all take responsibility.  It is time for us to admit that our collective inaction means that we all have a little blood on our hands, and that we must find a new approach to solve this unending cycle of mass murder that is only increasing in its frequency.

The lack of gun control legislation is part of the price we pay for insisting on purity from our elected officials.  I keep hearing elected officials being criticized for a vote they took on a bill that was going to pass or fail by a wide margin no matter how they voted.  This is often done for a substantive change or concession on an issue that matters to us all, but too many activists prefer to stand on the moral high ground in lieu of actual progress.  Others applaud elected officials for passing their purity test no matter the progress they make for their community or (in some cases) their lack of intellectual heft.  Voting the right way is important, and I am not knocking it, but achieving results like an assault weapons ban or universal background checks is more important than a few meaningless or symbolic votes.  So give me the intellectual heavyweight who has the political savvy to stop, or at least greatly reduce, these massacres through passing legislation over someone with a perfect voting record every day of the week!

Another reason why the NRA is so successful in stopping any gun control legislation is because they turn a good number of their members into single issue voters, and gun control advocates take a much more pluralistic approach to voting.  It is true that 90+ percent of voters support universal background checks.  What makes that number misleading though is that those who are not in favor of universal background checks are largely Republican primary voters, and they can make up a large portion of a Republican primary electorate.  That, combined with the fact that gerrymandering has made it so most members of Congress can only lose their seat in a primary, is what gives the NRA its power.  I am typically not a fan of litmus tests, but these are extreme times and we voters need to start demanding that every candidate we vote for supports gun control until we contain this epidemic of gun violence.

We also need to get more vigilant about pushing back at the notion that the government is coming to get everyone’s guns (unless you own an assault rifle that does nothing but kill people, in which case we might be coming for your guns).  People are dying, so we need to do away with the niceties and stop any attempt at placating the paranoia some people who about their guns.  We also need to do away with the notion that we can’t talk about gun control during or after a tragedy.  It is the job of the government to regulate guns in a sensible way, and it is nonsensical to not address a serious issue because the problems related to it are too recent.  To think that not reacting immediately is disrespectful to the victims or their families is lunacy, because many of the victims would probably be alive if we addressed this issue right after the last mass shooting, or the one before that, or the one before that, or the one before that, or the one before that.

The assault rifle ban in the 1990s proves that the world won’t end, and that we won’t turn into a police state, because guns that have no other use than killing people are banned from being sold to civilians.  The Constitution says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed for a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state.  That means the military and police.  That does not mean that almost anyone can go to a gun show and buy an AR-15 without a background check!  Now, in a free society just because something isn’t explicitly legal doesn’t mean that it is therefore illegal, so there is room for hunters, sportsmen, and people who want to protect themselves to buy a gun if they have a background check and proper training.  Any slight inconvenience gun owners face pales in comparison to the hurt that an AR-15 caused to the victims at Pulse this past weekend, to the Orlando community, and to this country.  If you don’t think that I have my priorities straight, just ask yourself if waiting a few days to get a gun would be more painful than losing someone that you love.

(Author’s Notes: Please feel free to send any comments, suggestions, column ideas, or hate mail to

Sean Phillippi is a Democratic strategist and consultant based in Broward County.  He has worked for campaigns on the federal, state, and local levels, including the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  Sean is the Managing Member of TLE Analytics LLC, the political data and consulting firm he founded in 2012.

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