The Republicans have found it incredibly difficult to address two major issues that continue to plague this nation: out-of-control gun violence and the social injustice of police violence against people of color.

Elected officials, regardless of party, are there to protect the American people, not put them in harm’s way. The U.S. is a violent country where mass shootings are too common. We witnessed 45 mass shootings in just one recent one-month period.

U.S. gun homicides are approximately 31 per 1 million people, according to Small Arms Survey, a Switzerland-based firm. In Germany it is two per 1 million and in England one per 1 million, which is similar throughout most of Europe.

Gun ownership in the U.S. is approximately 120 guns per 100 people. In Canada it’s only 34.7 per 100 people, the survey further said.

The NRA throughout most of the 20th century supported reasonable gun-control laws, including the National Firearms Act of 1934, which did away with machine guns and sawed-off shotguns because they were weapons made for killing people. The NRA also lobbied and co-authored gun-control legislation.

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Today, the National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful organizations in the nation, exerting its power in Washington, especially with the Republican Party. It fights any effort in Congress, it seems, to regulate guns, even guns essentially made to kill people such as the AR-15 with multiple-round clips.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution does protect a person’s right to keep and bear arms. It does not say anything about the type of guns one can own, however. Having an intelligent set of regulations that will help reduce the incredible gun violence in this country, similar to what was done under the National Firearms Act of 1934, would not be an infringement on our Second Amendment rights.

Besides the gun violence we watch on TV every night, we also watch the killings of people of color at the hands of the police, such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Adam Toledo.

There is no question the large majority of police in this country do an excellent job of protecting us. They take their job very seriously. They are naturally concerned with their own safety as well. We do not need to defund the police.

But we do need to have a serious discussion about reforming the police and better defining its role. What should its role be in certain aspects of the job that could be better handled by a social worker? Could we improve training in de-escalating situations before they get out of hand and when the use of force is required? We seem to understand we have a serious problem, but we continue to talk about it and not much gets done.

To my Republican friends: how many more must die before you are willing to do something?

J. Doug Pruitt of Knife River is a writer and contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.