Yet again we woke up to another mass shooting, yet again in Texas. I can't even muster the energy to try to describe how bleak it feels to barely even react to them now, but Luke O'Neil does a good job of that.
Instead I'd like to emphasize that it's not remotely impossible to drastically cut down gun deaths with policy. The pattern in the rate of gun deaths across states is clear: all else equal, stricter rules mean fewer deaths. And the effects are not small—there is a tenfold difference between super-strict Massachusetts and Mississippi, which has the weakest gun laws of any state.
This is probably because a large share of gun crimes and suicides are spur of the moment things. If you can get a gun in a day or even a few minutes, then it's easy for a stupid argument or moment of despair to end in a shooting death. Then the more people have guns, the more others feel they should get one as well to defend themselves, which has the same effect. But if you make it an expensive, annoying, and time-consuming process to get a gun, then this process is disrupted.
Of course Democrats are probably not going to win state power in Mississippi anytime soon. But while I don't think it would be possible to get rid of all guns at the federal level, large majorities of Americans favor control policies that are actually considerably stricter than what Massachusetts has. A recent poll found that 87 percent of voters support criminal background checks; 81 percent support raising the gun purchase age to 21; 77 percent support a 30-day waiting period; and remarkably, 61 percent support banning semi-automatic weapons. This last one in particular would have a huge effect when it comes to mass shootings—which are virtually always carried out with that kind of gun—as well as gun crime generally.
The median voter position is something like "I'm fine with bolt-action rifles, pump shotguns, single-action revolvers, and so on, for hunting and home defense, but gun violence is out of control in this country, and we need pretty drastic reforms."
The Supreme Court is an obstacle, of course. But that's true of about any good policy, and it's not insurmountable either. The reactionary majority is bogged down in an unprecedented corruption scandal, and actual prosecution might not be out of the question. It's also worth emphasizing that the legal merits of the right-wing position on the Second Amendment is complete nonsense. James Madison himself, who wrote the dang thing, thought it was compatible with a ban on carrying firearms outside of your own property.
Even with the filibuster, Democrats still had opportunities to deal with the problem. The last time the ceiling was raised was at the end of 2021, when they pushed it up to its current figure of $31.4 trillion as part of a reconciliation package. Some simple arithmetic showed that this mark would be reached in 2023—after the midterms in which Republicans were expected to do well. It was entirely predictable that if Republicans took control of either the House or the Senate, they would take the debt ceiling hostage. Not only did they do exactly that during Obama’s presidency, twice, today’s Republican caucus is dramatically crazier than it was back in those days.
This kind of reporting can constrain the Court’s power in at least two ways. First, it will make the justices rightly nervous about their political legitimacy. While the Court is insulated almost entirely from any formal accountability, its members are human beings, sensitive to some degree to how they are perceived by society. All else equal, justices will be more hesitant to trample all over Congress and the president when their blatantly unethical behavior is all over the news (except Thomas, probably). Doing so might fuel future Democratic victories, or put real momentum behind Court reform efforts.
Many tens of thousands of loyal conservative voters have died unnecessarily of COVID-19 because they refused to get the vaccine—a refusal championed by anti-vaccine messaging from political leaders and media figures (many of whom died of COVID themselves). Now that has made them more skeptical of vaccines of any kind, which might just bring back measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and more. The GOP is so politically diseased that it can’t take elementary steps to protect its own members from actual disease.
European investment in renewable energy plummeted during the 2010s, from a high of about $30 billion in 2011 to just $10 billion in 2018. In sunny Spain and Italy investment virtually ceased during this period. Instead many European countries, particularly Germany, came to rely on cheap Russian natural gas for their core energy needs. That made them greatly vulnerable to Russia pressure when Vladimir Putin cut down gas supplies in an attempt to force Europe to stop supporting Ukraine’s effort to fight off Russian aggression.]
In short, it would increase production of carbon fuels, delay the energy transition, cause more environmental damage, and harm the green energy industry. The package is dead on arrival in the Senate, and President Biden has already promised to veto it as well. But it’s still a good window into the thinking, or more specifically the incoherent oppositional defiance disorder attempting to resemble thinking, that dominates the Republican worldview.