Is the gun violence prevention movement really taking head-on an issue that is held by as little as 2% of the American public as being the most important factor in voting for Congress? Both Democratic candidates and gun violence prevention advocates ignored the market while failing to energize important segments of their customer base this past election. Until the gun violence prevention movement re-positions its product into one that better resonates with what is driving voters during elections, the issue will continue to be a largely inconsequential one in shaping Congress. But the movement also needs the help of Democratic candidates to light the fires.
With 11 of the 18 Senate Judiciary Committee members benefitting from gun lobby financial contributions, the impartiality of both their opinion and eventual votes is drawn into question. The Newtown incident has laid bare, as no other has in the past, the inherent conflict lawmakers face regarding their obligation to legislate in the public’s best interest versus special interest pressures that threaten their ability to retain office. This current debate has morphed into something larger than regulating the gun market. It provides clear evidence that our Congress needs to fundamentally change the way it operates.
Had a corporation in an industry federally regulated for safety been aware of a high level of product-related death and injury in children, obstructed attempts to look into the matter, obstructed dissemination of information about the matter, impeded the work of local, state and federal law enforcement, while continuing to increase public exposure to more powerful versions of the product that claimed multiple other young lives, those involved would have faced criminal prosecution. Yet our own lawmakers are so engaged while keeping firearms unregulated for safety and pocketing backdoor money from the gun industry through the NRA. The double standard is staggering. The behavior is reprehensible if not scandalous. Our free press should step forward, as only it can, to explore this issue.
Despite Information being available for at least 15 years showing that US children experience a grossly disproportionate loss of life from gunfire as compared to other wealthy industrialized countries, Congress has acted to obstruct both the generation and dissemination of such information while allowing increasingly more powerful weaponry onto the market. This while accepting NRA financial contributions derived, in part, from the very industry that financially benefits from its actions. It is argued that Congress, by its lack of intervention and obstructionist behavior, is complicit in contributing to the high level of gun-related death in America’s children. The Second Amendment was never intended to justify such a disparate loss of young life.
The Newtown, CT massacre of 20 young children and six school staff by a gunman at their school has reignited the gun debate. Will the endpoint of proposed legislation be to reduce the frequency of mass killings and/or limit the carnage from such? Or should it be to bring the grossly disproportionate loss of life in US children from gunfire to parity with that from other industrialized nations. The two are different.
The extremist position the NRA leadership takes in opposing virtually all gun control regulation, along with its associated anti-diversity rhetoric, has placed it at odds with the majority of gun owners, including its own membership, as welll as an increasingly diverse America. It is only a matter of time before politicians will find it necessary to distance themselves from the organization to keep or achieve political office. A multi-pronged political approach now exists that can compel lawmakers into taking action to curb gun violence in America.
Although individual groups representing blacks, Hispanics, and women have called for stricter gun control measures in the past, none of them have carried enough clout at the polls to effect legislative change. But what we just witnessed in this past general election is a game changer.
“…there’s remarkable consensus among mainstream economists, including those from the left and right, on most major macroeconomic issues. The debate in Washington about economic policy is phony. It’s manufactured. And it’s entirely political…and in a particular direction: Angry Republicans have pushed their representatives to adopt positions that are at odds with the best of modern economic thinking. That may be good politics, but it’s terrible policy.” Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers
An alternative way to consider the risk difference between gun-related and traffic-related fatalities is presented. To permit the grossly disproportionate rate of gunfire deaths in US children to continue is indefensible. It is time that politicians are made to publicly defend their voting record in obstructing availability of information about the health risks of guns while expanding public exposure to firearms.
A letter was sent to US Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) regarding The Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. That legislation has little to do with defending or protecting the rights of law abiding citizens. It is about the union of an appalling political strategy, that for decades has successfully exploited racial conflict for votes, and corporate profits. An agenda that will, perhaps sooner than later, exact a price at the polls.
That some lives matter more than others is evidenced when the well-documented shortfall in African-American life expectancy is translated into millions of premature deaths. The loss of life to grossly disproportionate gun violence in the African-American community is but a minor contributor to the broader effects of racial discrimination. With our current knowledge of factors that adversely affect health and thus life, has the plight of our African-American community crossed the threshold of being declared a crime against humanity?
With two separate human rights committees declaring this year that rampant gun violence in the United States constitutes a violation of our government’s duty to protect life, gun violence finds itself as being but one member in a family of related disorders in our country. It is beyond coincidence that all disproportionately affect the same victims and that all are fostered by the same hateful and discriminatory ideology held on the political right. Although other members of this family claim far more lives than does gun violence, it is the dramatic and highly publicized nature of major gun violence events that raises public outrage as well as tens of millions of dollars in funding. Our country now has the demography to weaponize human rights in our political process. And gun violence prevention, with its resources and political connections, can accomplish much more than just its own cause, and far more quickly, by simply changing its focus.
The GOP’s decision to reinstate tax cut policy in 2001 exposed their hand. It was not about deficit reduction, growing the economy, or job creation. It was about ideology and, no doubt, special interests. It was a backdoor approach where government revenue was cut in an attempt to curtail spending on popular programs they otherwise could not take head-on. This while obstructing the work of Congress, spinning a web of deceit about the benefits of their policy, and weakening our country’s financial standing. It’s time to play hardball during ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations and force them to be specific about what spending cuts they are talking about to offset the tax benefits they wish to preserve for the wealthiest. They wouldn’t have the nerve.