Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) ripped into Republicans and the massively profitable gun industry for their roles in the gun violence epidemic that’s running rampant across the U.S. in a fiery speech on Wednesday.
During a House Oversight Committee hearing that featured testimony from survivors of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, Ocasio-Cortez highlighted that gun manufacturers and lobbyists from organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) spend millions lobbying to keep the gun industry profitable — lobbying efforts that are highly successful in coaxing right-wing lawmakers to keep gun laws lax.
Gun violence isn’t just a problem in places where it’s easy to obtain a gun, Ocasio-Cortez said — rather, states with lenient gun laws are responsible for widespread gun prevalence even in other states, making the epidemic nationwide.
“There is no discussion about New York gun violence without discussing the Iron Pipeline that is Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania — and honorary mention to Ohio — where 70 percent of likely illegal trafficked guns found in New York City come from,” Ocasio-Cortez said, lambasting her Republican colleagues for continuously bringing up the gun violence rates of largely liberal cities.
“There is no discussion about gun violence in Chicago without talking about Indiana,” she continued, “because the violence and the mothers that we have to comfort are losing children due to the guns and the carnage and the lawlessness unleashed by those states.”
Indeed, tens of thousands of guns are smuggled across state lines each year, carried from states where it is easier to buy guns and transported into states like New York and New Jersey, which have stricter firearm regulations. In a lawsuit filed by the city of Chicago last year, the city alleged that a towering 850 guns involved in crimes between 2009 and 2016 were sourced from just one store in Gary, Indiana, known as Westforth Sports.
Ocasio-Cortez went on to point out that the number of school shootings that have occurred in the U.S. between 2009 and 2018 towers over that of other G7 countries; while the U.S. has had 288 school shootings in that time, National Education Association President Becky Pringle confirmed in the hearing, G7 countries Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K. collectively had five over the same period.
“Two hundred eighty-eight versus five. This is not normal. Not only is it not normal, it is internationally embarrassing and delegitimizing to the United States,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Because for all the billions and trillions that this body authorizes in the name of national security, we can’t even keep our kids safe from their school being turned into a warzone.”
Indeed, since the Columbine shooting in 1999, over 311,000 students have been exposed to a school shooting, according to the Washington Post. Further, school shootings appear to be on the rise — just in 2021, there were 42 shootings, more than any other recorded year. In this year alone, there have been at least 24 incidents of gun violence at schools. The death toll of all the shootings documented by the Post combined is at least 185 children and adults; 369 others have been injured.
“Let’s talk about one thing more important to lobbyists and the gun industry than children, than houses of faith, than human beings — let’s talk about profit,” Ocasio-Cortez said. Beginning in 2020, gun and ammunition manufacturers began seeing record profits, she explained. “In your view, are you seeing a correlation between gun profits and gun deaths in the United States?” she asked Everytown for Gun Safety law and policy vice president Nick Suplina.
“Yes,” Suplina replied.
“This is about blood money,” Ocasio-Cortez said. A significant portion of the record profits that some manufacturers have been raking in — hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth — go directly toward lobbying efforts against gun regulations, she went on to point out.
“The NRA spent about $250 million in 2020 alone,” she said. “That’s more than twice the entire salary of Congress combined in one year, lobbying against gun safety laws.”
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