There's No Other Option: We Need To Vote Out Gun-Happy Politicians

Photo: John Locher/AP.
Within the span of 13 hours over the weekend, 20 people were massacred in El Paso, TX and nine murdered in Dayton, OH, with dozens more injured at each scene. The perpetrators were both white men in their early 20s. And while Ohio law enforcement officials haven’t offered more information on the motive of the Dayton shooter, reports state that the El Paso shooter is being investigated as a domestic terrorist who drove nearly nine hours and more than 600 miles across Texas to carry out a premeditated massacre.
It’s the kind of event that has become all too common and the response all too routine. We mourn, and we offer condolences while right-wing politicians such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump line up to offer their empty thoughts and prayers to the families of those who were needlessly murdered. We have been here before — in fact, hundreds of times in just 2019 alone. If past is prologue, this is where it will end too — with no meaningful drive from the majority of those in Washington and in our state legislatures to move the needle and secure much-needed and much-desired gun reform.
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At this point, there is nothing to offer but this: We have no other option but to stop fixating solely on the 2020 presidential race and put our energies towards also voting out the ghouls — at the federal, state, and local levels of public office — who think nearly three dozen people getting murdered in a 13-hour period is just the way it is.
The upcoming election cycles — 2019, 2020, and beyond — aren’t just about beating Trump; they’re about beating everybody who isn’t serious about creating a country free of gun violence — not to mention eradicating toxic masculinity and white supremacy.
And yes, there are elections this year, and just because many of them are state and local races that aren’t mentioned by mainstream outlets, that doesn’t mean that they aren't happening and that you shouldn't show up on election day and bring your fellow concerned citizens with you.

We have no other option but to stop fixating solely on the 2020 presidential race and put our energies towards also voting out the ghouls — at the federal, state, and local levels of public office — who think nearly three dozen people getting murdered in a 13-hour period is just the way it is.

Because although it may feel like there's a lot riding on a 2020 presidential race, Trump is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s an entire network of elected officials who have enabled his cruel administration since he got into office, and will continue to do nothing about our nation’s gun problem — and the other problems attached to these tragedies — even if he loses re-election next year. We need to focus on the people in Congress who continue to shrug instead of enacting serious gun control legislation. We need to pay attention to the state representatives who keep voting for open-carry laws, including giving gun-toters access to places like schools. We need to hone in on the local representatives who don’t create any statutes to promote gun reform. These are the people we have to come after during this election cycle, too.
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Luckily, there are plenty of organizations doing that work — and if we’re willing to put in the time and energy, we’ll see progress. Organizations such as Swing Left and Indivisible are focusing on turning districts blue at the federal level, while Future Now and Flippable are working to turn state legislatures blue. Run For Something is also working to elect young progressives in state and local offices. And of course, stalwart Moms Demand Action, while nonpartisan, does excellent work endorsing candidates who have strong gun reform platforms.
It's not enough to sit there and wonder, What the hell do I do now? Over just the past two years, there have been heated debates about why it's important to not just being pro-sensible gun reform, but also anti-gun. We've argued over how we need a cultural shift in how we talk about guns. We even know that most Americans are on the same page when it comes to effective gun reform — and how our politicians still do nothing. There’s a lot to say about all of it, but the immediate answer is both simple and difficult.
We can get educated on candidates’ gun reform positions and voting records and advocate for those people with our words and our campaigning. We can talk to friends and family about the importance of gun control and how our current legislators seem to be okay with any person in this country being murdered just for going about their day. We can vote. And, most importantly, we can never stop fighting for better representation at every single level of government.
Right now, it might feel like a helpless situation. But we said the same thing the day after the 2016 election — and look how much ground we made up during the 2018 midterms. Who’s to say we can’t deliver a gargantuan blow in 2020, too?
Lily Herman is a contributing editor at Refinery29 and the founder of political volunteer network Get Her Elected. Follow her on Twitter. The views expressed are her own.
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