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HomeCommentaryOp-edOp-Ed: Our Policing Problem in America Is About Race and Racism. It...

Op-Ed: Our Policing Problem in America Is About Race and Racism. It Is Also About Guns.

The Capitol Building in Washington D.C. (Photo from National Park Service)

The Senate should debate and vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed by the House (not likely to happen unless the filibuster is removed). We need equal treatment and decency for all citizens regardless of skin color.

We must also recognize that our police go to work every day in a war zone and fear for their lives because we are so awash in guns (the U.S. has 120 guns per 100 people, Germany has 32 per 100 people and is near the top in Europe, the UK far less). I am old enough to remember the Vietnam War weekly death counts announced by the network news. The press today should do the same for our weekly gun deaths. In the 14 plus years of the Vietnam War we lost 58,220 soldiers. In 2018 alone we lost 39,740 in the U.S. to gun violence. The weekly gun violence number far eclipses the Vietnam War one.

I was in Miami over Thanksgiving staying at a vacation rental home when there was an active shooter incident a block away. More than a dozen police cars, three fire trucks and two fire ambulances arrived on the scene. Every individual was wearing what could only be described as combat gear. After two hours they announced it was a false alarm and left.

One can only imagine how much more we spend than other Western countries to respond to routine disturbances and how many more bad outcomes we have due to the prevalence of guns (many of which should only be in the hands of trained soldiers).

Most of us want common-sense gun reform – some polls say as many as 90 percent of Americans. So why can’t we get it (along with infrastructure, climate and other legislation)? The U.S. Senate has evolved into a legislative body where the minority party can block votes and debate on almost any issue. Both parties use the filibuster to stop the other side from governing. The majority party must be allowed to pass their ideas for solving our nation’s problems.

If we the people do not like their ideas, we can vote them out every two years. We have been in a cycle of blaming the majority for getting nothing done when it is the minority party who has been obstructing the majority for 30 plus years. They then trade places after the next election and continue the cycle.

All other Western democracies allow the majority to pass their ideas into legislation. What is passed does not always work and many times changes need to be made, often by the opposition once they come to power. But this is how things get done in a democratic society. We will become less polarized because new legislative ideas will invariably help some people who are aligned with the other side.

In the short term, the filibuster must go. After that, we need campaign finance reform and congressional term limits to return to a functioning democracy. These changes will take the power of government from a concentrated few and give it back to the majority of people in this country. The status quo will lead to further polarization and more civil unrest.

Editor’s note: Steve Hardee is a retired physician, amateur political scientist and long-term St. Croix resident.

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