A lot has happened in since the last Republican primary debate. There were the tragic attacks in Paris and Beirut that solidified the international community, a historic climate accord, and a new wave of Hillary Clinton emails over which we could all salivate. Kardashian babies, GOP drop-outs, and the Democratic primary showdown have also dominated the news. And then, of course, there was this frustrating fact: Between the last Republican debate and this one, there have also been 25 mass shootings.
If that number seems high, it's because it is, especially considering that only 35 days have passed since the last GOP debate. (According to the crowdsourced Mass Shooting Tracker, a mass shooting is one in which there are at least four injuries or fatalities.) In total, some 49 people have been killed as a result of these shootings as well, according to the independent Shooting Tracker website, including the tragic Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the deadly attack in San Bernardino, California just two weeks ago, which left 14 people dead. That's a lot of bloodshed for an issue that the majority of the GOP candidates simply don't want to touch with a 10-foot pole.
"We don't stop the bad guys by giving way our guns," Ted Cruz said, repeating a favorite party line during a speech at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation on Thursday last week. "We stop the bad guys by using our guns."
Cruz isn't alone in his sentiments. At previous GOP primary debates, the Texas senator's rival candidates have all tried to throw their hats into the ring on the Second Amendment issue.
"I do think the natural impulse on the left — Hillary Clinton, immediately after one of these horrific [shootings] took place, immediately said we need to have federal gun laws," said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at the second Republican debate in September. "President Obama almost reflexively always says the same thing, and the net result is, you're going to take away rights of of law-abiding citizens, the 99.999 percent of the people that are law-abiding citizens."
In a similar vein, at the third GOP debate this past October, frontrunner Donald Trump derided gun-free zones as a magnet for potential disaster. "I think gun-free zones are a catastrophe," Trump stated. "They're a feeding frenzy for sick people." He added that he himself had a permit for and carried a gun "sometimes a lot," which he claimed was "unusual" for New York residents.
Whatever the case, the GOP seems to be running the conversation in their favor, with very little in the way of critical dialogue — a fact with which few members of the public seem to be happy, despite what conservatives would have supporters believe. "While Republicans in Congress resist the most basic steps to curb gun access by violent offenders, the public is much more reasonable," Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof wrote in a column for The New York Times on Dec. 3. "Even among gun owners, 85 percent approve of universal background checks, according to a poll this year [and] ... an overwhelming share of gun owners support cracking down on firearms dealers who are careless or lose track of guns. ... Not every shooting is preventable, but we're not even trying."
If Republicans want to continue the trend of bashing gun control advocates and ignoring stark statistics that should otherwise be cause for concern, that's their prerogative. But facts are stubborn things, and it won't be long before the number of bodies begin to stack so high that the GOP will be forced to take notice. Hopefully they'll change their tune before it ever reaches that point.