By John Singleton, III President, Rochester NAACP
There was a mass shooting on Saturday, May 14, 2022 at Tops Market, in our beloved neighboring city of Buffalo. This grocery store was a place frequented predominantly by African Americans. The assailant sought out an area where there was a large African American population and murdered them.
The Rochester NAACP sends condolences to the families in Buffalo that lost loved ones, and to the entire community affected by this senseless act.
Once again, politicians gathered at microphones, taking turns explaining what happened and what they will do. There were leaders expressing their condolences and speaking about their proposals. There was a march and even a barbeque. There were heartfelt speeches and remembrances of loved ones. There were statements of radicalization. There were statements of mental health services (or lack of) and how this assailant was given help before the shooting and then sent home. There were statements of guns purchased legally.
This is the same scenario at every mass shooting. The only thing that changes are the faces making the statements. We all know that very soon there will be another mass shooting. Many people are being radicalized on the internet as you read this statement. They will eventually show up somewhere with deadly weapons. We just don’t know where it will be next time. It could be your neighborhood.
Guns are still flowing into our cities and towns, and not enough politicians and leaders are willing to support gun reform laws that will significantly reduce gun availability. With the same access to our vast volume of guns in the United States and an unchecked internet that radicalizes people, how long do you think it will be before another mass shooting happens?
Speeches, visits, and condolences are mentally soothing, however, these things will not prevent mass shootings or gun violence. To reduce gun violence, we must reduce the number of guns available and restrict access to those guns. A radicalized person cannot commit a mass shooting without a weapon. This might seem to be a daunting task; however, Congress has the power to make these changes.
I would like to give some insight on how Congress is being prevented from passing bills, like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 and gun reform laws. The House of Representatives and the Senate are both controlled by Democrats who are pushing for gun reform.
So, what is preventing Congress from passing gun reform laws? It’s called the filibuster. The Senate needs a 2/3 majority vote to pass a bill. The filibuster allows for unlimited debates, which can prevent a bill from coming to the floor for a vote. It takes 60 Senators to vote to end the filibuster so the bill can be voted on. With a 50/50 split in the Senate, the numbers aren’t there, and this becomes a no-win situation for gun reform.
There is a way to end a filibuster, it’s called the “nuclear option.” This is implementing a rule change. This can only be initiated by the Senate Majority Leader. The Senate will then only need a simple majority vote to pass a bill. There are 50 Senators caucusing with the Republicans and 50 Senators caucusing with Democrats. The Vice President is the tie breaking vote in the Senate.
So, can Congress get rid of the filibuster to return to a simple majority vote? Yes, they can, however, two Democratic Senators refused to eliminate the filibuster, so the Democrats are two votes short. It is politics that is preventing the American people from getting closer to real gun reform and preventing the suppression of voting rights.
What can you as a citizen do to help this process? While gathering and protesting for gun reform is truly needed, voting will get the job done. Vote out politicians that will not get on board with gun reform and vote in politicians that will. I cannot advise you on what party or leader to vote for. I will recommend that you vote for leaders that will deliver the reforms and services that you need in your community and your country.