American carnage: COVID-19 and gun violence

by Pete Mazzaccaro
Posted 1/14/21

I have no doubt that you are as focused as I am on the outrageous events at the Capitol last week, in which some 8,000 followers of President Donald Trump sacked the halls of Congress at his urging …

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American carnage: COVID-19 and gun violence

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I have no doubt that you are as focused as I am on the outrageous events at the Capitol last week, in which some 8,000 followers of President Donald Trump sacked the halls of Congress at his urging resulting in the deaths of five people. On “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey summarized the outrageousness of the president’s behavior this way:

“After the election, he took this to an entire[ly] different place, orders of magnitude different,” Toomey said to host Chuck Todd. “I mean, come on. Recruiting thousands of Americans from around the country to descend on the Capitol, promising a wild ride and inciting them to attack the Capitol building so as to prevent the Constitutional responsibility of the vice president and the Congress to complete the peaceful transfer of power after an election, all so that he could try to stay in office.”

We will debate for some time the degree to which anyone could have or should have expected the events of Jan. 6. Many who saw Trump’s rhetoric as dangerous and destabilizing were shocked but not surprised. The assault on American democracy has been shocking enough, but in the context of our time, it is even worse. While the President of the United States focused all of his energy on concocting schemes to steal the results of an election he lost, the country has been reeling from twin pandemics: COVID-19, which has killed nearly 375,000 people, and gun violence, which this year claimed more than 43,000 lives.

While COVID-19 has been front and center in the conversation on public health, the rise of gun violence is really shocking. In a year in which many spent their hours at home, gun homicides reached their highest level ever, with 19,292 people murdered by guns (the remaining number are suicides, which until recently accounted for nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths). In Philadelphia, we know this all too well as 2020 saw 499 people killed in the city, the highest number since 1960.

One of the most outrageous aspects of the ridiculous attempts by congressional Republicans to overturn the result of last year’s general election has been the utter failure to tackle the real and fatal emergencies that continue to consume the country. And the shock left in the wake of the mob that was sent to the Capitol to take by force what they failed to accomplish through empty objections will leave the government in a continued state of distraction in making sure those responsible, including the President, are held accountable.

Cities across the country, like Philadelphia, are going to be faced this year with these terrible twin realities, tackling both COVID-19 vaccination plans and trying to decide just how they might reverse the stunning spike in violent shootings and homicide. The tasks ahead are tall. The country is depending on Congress to focus on these dire needs. If it doesn’t, the carnage of Trump’s last four years will continue.

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