Sri Kulkarni (TX-22) Facebook Post

“‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” This is a headline that I used to post every time there was a mass shooting, until it just got to be too painful to keep posting. As someone who has witnessed gun violence personally, who has had friends whose children have been murdered in mass shootings, and who has traveled the world to over 60 other countries, it is maddening, humiliating, and extremely painful to have to admit that my country’s politicians refuse to even try to do something about this problem. We have had more than one mass shooting per day this year. This weekend was particularly horrific, with at least 31 people killed, including 22 in El Paso, Texas.

The President is visiting Dayton and El Paso today. Despite our differences, there are several things that I agree with the President on. I agree with the President that we should implement “red flag” laws. There are many individuals whose prior behavior has indicated that they should not have access to firearms. However, there are other gun reforms we also need. We should enact locker laws to ensure people other than the owners do not have access to those weapons when the owners are out of the house. (This could have prevented the tragedy in Santa Fe, TX.) We should also have UNIVERSAL background checks, which the President committed to support in the past, but then backtracked on. There are many such common sense gun reforms that Republican and Democratic voters agree on, and our elected leaders should pass, but they have not because they are beholden to the NRA. To be clear, I support the 2nd amendment, whose first 14 words are “A well regulated military being necessary to the security of a free State...” All we are talking about is how to be well regulated. The purpose of the 2nd amendment from the beginning was to make Americans SAFER (by allowing each state militia to defend their people). If we are now more worried about the safety of our guns than the safety of our children, we end up abandoning the spirit of the Constitution as well as the security of our families, when we should be defending both.

Second, we do need more access to mental health care in this country. Many people have noted that the mentally ill are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence. But, that obscures the point that we cannot just talk about the “mentally ill” as if everyone else in our society has no need for mental health services. Just as we must invest more in preventative physical health care before our problems become acute, we must also invest heavily in access to mental health services for our entire society, because everyone has a state of mental health. Every human being (and especially our youth) gets stressed, and they respond to it in different ways. Every stressed out student should have access to mental health services, regardless of whether they have voiced a desire to harm themselves or others, because we should be striving for a healthy society, not just one that reacts to threats.

Lastly, while I appreciate that the President said we should condemn hate and white supremacy, which was clearly a motivation for the El Paso killer, stating that without retracting his own racist statements is hollow and insulting. The President started his campaign by saying that most migrants from Mexico were “rapists” and were bringing “drugs” and “crime” to America, while only “some,” he “assumes, are good people.” We cannot sugar coat this. This is hate speech, which incites people to see any Latinos as dangerous. When he said that an American of Latino heritage could not be his judge, he was telling the country that this ethnicity is less American than others (what Paul Ryan called “textbook racism.”) When he repeatedly uses the term “invasion” to describe migrants and asylum seekers, he cannot feign ignorance when killers in El Paso or Pittsburgh think they are being patriots by defending America against the imaginary “invasion” they have been told is happening on US soil. Using softer language like “unorthodox style” or “sensationalized rhetoric” normalizes what he is doing. The President has been inciting bigotry and even violence with his hate speech. In Christchurch, the killer directly referenced President Trump’s hate speech in his justification for murder. Even in his response to the mass shootings this weekend, he suggested tying gun reform legislation to “desperately needed immigration reform,” implying that if his proposals, such as building “The Wall” had been enacted, that would have somehow prevented a mass shooting. He continues to inflame anger even in our moment of national grief. Until he retracts and apologizes for his own incitement, including the calls for banning entire faiths, the racial slanders and stereotypes, and the promotion of fear mongering conspiracy theories, such as “birtherism”, millions of illegal voters, or full blown “invasion,” any visit to the victims of El Paso is insensitive and inappropriate.
— Sri Kulkarni