Though presidential candidates' Twitter feeds have been littered with calls for prayers after the multiple mass shootings these past few weeks, it's anyone's guess as to whether Republicans will finally talk about gun control in substance come Tuesday's debate. The conservative candidates have been notorious for skirting the topic, choosing to back their NRA interests over rigorous debate. But with the Planned Parenthood and San Bernardino shootings happening within just days of one another, will the Republican candidates finally take aim at gun control?
Their past record of doing so has been weak. Many candidates stick to their guns — literally — and push out any real room for debate. Of the nine candidates taking the stage this Tuesday, only one, John Kasich, has ever received an F rating from the National Rifle Association. The Ohio governor voted to support a 1994 ban of 19 semi-automatic rifles, but his rating has since been upgraded to an A now that he stays in line with the NRA and the party's conservative gun control rhetoric. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, signed into law Florida's now infamous "Stand Your Ground" law, which was used in defense of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The rest of the Republicans in this week's debate are also, predictably, staunch supporters of the Second Amendment at all costs.
The fact that these candidates have blood on their hands seems to not faze them. Instead, after each shooting that could have in large part been prevented from stricter gun control, they turn to talk of mental illness.
According to Politico, Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, recently stated: "We have to do a much better job with mental health. ... [We need] better services, better doctors."
This switch from gun control to mental health would be more forgivable if they provided any follow-through with expanding mental health services. Rather, they continuously vote to gut mental health programs from individual states and on the national level. Despite claiming mental illness is the root of all guns' evil (spoiler: it's not), Republicans sure are unwilling to enact any change.
So will Republicans debate gun control in a way that takes these recent mass shootings seriously, instead of placating to the NRA and Second Amendment-obsessed voters? In all likelihood, probably not. But as a voter, I sincerely hope that the candidates will take a real look at their gun control policies, and reevaluate how they have been falling short. But as the NRA slogan so aptly points out, it seems as if the candidates will only give in if we "pry their guns from their cold, dead hands."