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Let’s Talk about Guns and How Lobbyists Are Killing Us

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Sunday, it was three people killed in a senseless mass shooting that injured an additional dozen victims at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Tuesday, a disgruntled employee shot and killed two co-workers and injured an officer at a Mississippi Walmart. What news will it be tomorrow?

Going to eat garlic ice cream or clocking in at work should not incite anxiety, but it does. The school year is about to start and parents no longer have the luxury of just reminding their kids to bring their lunches and homework. Now, they’ll insist children keep their phones fully charged at all times in case of an emergency and review what to do in the event of an active shooter.

This is America.

Ten Democratic candidates used time on Tuesday’s debate stage to affirm their stances on gun control. The 10 candidates that will take their places on the same stage Wednesday night will likely do the same. If there is unity among Democrats, it is rooted in the public pressing for “sensible” gun control. And yet…shooting after shooting, murder after murder, nothing changes. Why?

Surprisingly, it was the all “love” Marianne Williamson who cut through the talking points and got to meat of the stagnancy.

Williamson said Tuesday:

“For politicians, including my fellow candidates who themselves have taken tens of thousands and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars from these same corporate donors, to think that they now have the moral authority to say ‘we’re going to take them on,’ I don’t think the Democratic Party should be surprised that so many Americans believe ‘yada yada yada.’”

The gun used during the festival shooting that claimed the lives of a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a 25-year-old man was illegal in the state of California. However, if you jump on over to Nevada, as the 19-year-old shooter did, you can legally purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle and cross the border back into the Golden State. Firearms tracing data reported by the ATF indicate that approximately 40 percent of guns used in violent crimes in California are brought in from other less-restrictive states.

“Statham” painting by Pauldon Smith. Photo courtesy of Daniel van den Berg on Unsplash.

As Vox explored in an article published Tuesday, the inability to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals or those who suffer psychiatric instabilities is not a failure of local and state laws — it is a failure on the part of our federal government. Vox explains:

“This is a phenomenon seen all across the country in places with stricter gun laws.In New York, more than 70 percent of guns used in crimes come from outside the state. In Chicago, nearly 60 percent. In Massachusetts, almost half.”

“It’s even an international problem. According to the US Government Accountability Office, at least 70 percent of guns seized and traced in Mexico by the ATF were found to have a US origin. Because the US has very lax gun laws, while Mexico has strict laws, drug cartels and other criminal actors often go to America to buy their weapons.”

We go through the same song and dance in Congress each time tragedy strikes at a dance club, school or movie theater. First, we have “thoughts and prayers.” Second, we get the calls to action. And by the third step come accusations of exploitation. Somehow, it’s always “too soon” to discuss gun control in the wake of mass shooting.

In a “Meet the Press” interview after the deadly shooting in Virginia Beach May 31, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said:

“We have too many of these shootings, and every time the first thing we talk about is politics.”

“The mourning period hasn’t even stopped yet, let alone the healing process. So, let’s not get too deep into politics too soon. Let’s think about the families.”

Is it the families Mitch McConnell is thinking of when he refuses to bring gun legislation up for a Senate vote? Do families sending their kids off to school have a problem with universal background checks? Are families attending festivals opposed to a federal assault weapons ban? Are families worshiping together in synagogues against a license requirement to own a firearm?

According to a study done by Pew Research in Oct. 2018, about 57 percent of Americans believe gun control laws should be more strict, and that number reflects a portion of responsible gun owners and law enforcement officers. So, if a majority of the population wants to tighten the laws, why won’t Congress act on behalf of the people it represents?

The simple answer falls on the National Rifle Association, the organization that contributes exorbitant amounts of money in campaign donations and funds think tanks that push legislation to keep the status quo right where it is. Although the NRA is quickly coming apart at the seams amid internal corruption scandal, it is still a powerful lobbying force embedded in the pockets of our democracy.

The more complicated and more accurate answer goes deeper than the NRA – it rests in the detrimental Citizens United decision that prioritized corporate interest above the needs of the people. The opioid crisis and rampant drug pricing are direct results of the insane amount of money pharmaceutical lobbyists pour into our government officials’ coffers. The push for environmental deregulation soars with every dollar spent by oil lobbyists. The root of our many problems is singular – corporations don’t have the moral obligation to “think about the families.” Until their cash is taken out of our system, the will of the people will take a back seat to greed and as Williamson said, tomorrow will be more of the same “yada, yada, yada.”

 

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.