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.
Today’s gun violence prevention movement has developed the organizational structures, political connections and deep financial pockets to impact both Congress and public opinion. The use those resources to inject human rights into our political dialog, along with the voices of Congressional allies, becomes a moral imperative for our leaders.
Like any successful merger, synergy exists between the gun violence prevention and human rights movements. Together they are stronger than they are apart and have practical application in shaping Congress to the ultimate benefit of both.
This article explores the interrelationships between gun violence, race and politics in America versus human rights obligations our country assumed following its ratification of the International Convention to End all forms of Racial Discrimination. Our country’s progress under that treaty will be reviewed by the UN’s CERD in August of this year in Geneva, Switzerland. In what was called an act of public shaming by media, in March of this year the UN committee overseeing our country’s obligations under another treaty we have ratified (the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights) cited numerous human rights abuses by our country – included was rampant gun violence and the proliferation of stand-your-ground laws. An important question becomes why our government is not aggressively intervening to put a halt to the grossly disproportionate loss of life and injury to gun violence in a segment of its own citizenry.
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.