Marty Essen

Gun deaths, police violence, and global warming are epidemics, solvable with commitment, ingenuity, and cooperation. Unfortunately, as long as Republicans stand in the way, solutions to those problems will remain out of America’s grasp. With that in mind, I’d like to ask Republicans, “What will it take?”

From 2000 to 2015, the equivalent to one-half the population of Montana (505,005 people) lost their lives in America due to guns.

In Australia, the 1996 Port Arthur massacre (35 deaths) was all it took for the country to change its gun laws. Since then, Australia’s gun deaths have dropped dramatically and mass shootings have disappeared.

In America, the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre took the lives of 26 people. If there ever was a time for America to follow Australia’s lead, that was it. Instead, Republicans obstructed, and last year annual gun sales reached 27 million — an all-time record.

If we had the collective will, America could come close to matching Australia’s success and still retain gun rights for hunters. Yet even weak gun regulation proposals send Republicans into a frenzy, and gun deaths clip along at an average of 33,667 per year.

Tell me, Republicans, how many grade school massacres or annual deaths will it take before you’ve had enough?

Most police officers are brave citizens with ethical standards. Nevertheless, police violence is another American epidemic. Before cell phone videos, such violence was easier to hide. Now the Internet is filled with examples of police violence, ranging from head stompings to firing on unarmed citizens. And while the violence is committed by a minority of officers, it’s likely more common than it appears. No one knows how often the blue curtain covers up unfilmed violence or how often victims simply limp away, fearful of reporting to someone who could be buddies with the offending officer.

How does police violence apply to Republicans? Quite simply, Republicans have made it their mission to defend the police without question — especially when the victims are black. In fact, in a July 28 speech to Long Island police officers, Donald Trump actually encouraged officers to be more violent when making arrests. No wonder police officers get off so frequently in jury trials, despite damning video evidence.

Tell me, Republicans, how much brutality can you gloss over before you’ll demand that police academy training methods be revamped and all officers be outfitted with body cameras?

Global warming is the third epidemic plaguing America. As I write this, Montana is enduring yet another devastating fire season, and Texas is enduring the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Scientists warn that we can’t tie individual forest fires or hurricanes to global warming. Even so, we do know that in the 31 years since Ronald Reagan ripped the solar panels off the White House, leading Republicans on an anti-environmental crusade, Montana’s fire season has lengthened by roughly 40 days. We also know that ocean temperatures have risen during that same time, amplifying the intensity of storms.

If Republicans in congress hadn’t consistently voted against the environment (increasing their anti-environment votes from 70 percent in the early 1980s to 95 percent now) and obstructed renewable energy innovation, perhaps we’d now have the upper hand in the battle against global warming. Instead, we have super-fires and super-storms occurring at history-making rates.

Tell me, Republicans, how much devastation will it take before you’ll join the fight to keep our planet livable for future generations?

Although history won’t be kind to today’s Republicans, political parties can change. When President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Democrats lost the South but maintained their humanity. If Republicans ever wish to be ethical leaders, instead of blinder-wearing followers, they too must find their own Johnson and put country before party. I just want to know. What will it take?

Bio: Marty Essen is a college speaker and the ten-time award-winning author of two environmentally themed books. His third book, a science fiction political satire, called “Time is Irreverent,” will be published in early

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