When you think about responding to gun violence and the tragic epidemic of mass shootings, what comes to mind? Stricter gun laws? Comprehensive mental health services? For former Vice President Mike Pence, it seems the answer is pushing for an “expedited” death penalty for mass shooters.
Reacting to a recent devastating event in Jacksonville, Florida, Pence made his stance clear on CBS News’s “Face the Nation”, stating that we must send a clear message to mass shooters. But here’s where it gets puzzling: the shooter in this particular incident took his own life at the scene. And it’s not an isolated incident. According to a New York Times analysis, a significant 25.4% of active shootings end with the shooter’s suicide, while an FBI report from 2014 sets that number even higher at 40%.
Craig Harrington of Media Matters aptly pointed out the flaw in Pence’s rationale: “Mike Pence’s solution to gun violence is handing down a death penalty to a guy who literally killed himself.”
Many conservatives, including Pence, ardently believe that the death penalty can deter crime. Yet, the facts simply don’t back that up. States with the death penalty on the books have higher murder rates than those without. Amnesty International, a reputable global human rights organization, highlights the broad consensus among experts: the death penalty is not a proven deterrent to violent crime.
So, one has to wonder: What’s the real agenda here? Pence’s position might just be a play to appear “tough on crime,” aiming to woo the GOP base as the 2024 presidential election looms. Given that his main competition, former president Donald Trump, suggests the death penalty for drug-related convictions, the contest for the most extreme position is evidently fierce.
In contrast, President Joe Biden has expressed a desire to end the death penalty at the federal level. While his administration has suspended all scheduled federal executions, many activists, including Alice Kim from the Justice, Policy, and Culture Think Tank, feel he hasn’t done enough. Pointing out that the Department of Justice has defended and pursued the death penalty in certain high-profile cases, the call for action grows louder.
To truly tackle the epidemic of mass shootings, we need to look beyond superficial, politically motivated solutions and dive deeper into comprehensive reforms. It’s about time we prioritized lives over political optics.