Change is in the hands of voters
To the editor:
Americans reacted to the latest school massacre with stunned sadness and outrage. Outrage that a badly disturbed 18-year old could legally purchase an AR-15 and a year later mow down 17 innocent children and teachers. Many said “enough is enough.” Well, when will enough be enough? Sandy Hook was not enough to compel Congress to enact stricter gun control laws. Church shootings in South Carolina and Texas were not enough. Mass murder in an Orlando nightclub and a Las Vegas country music concert were not enough. And, sadly the Parkland school murders will not be enough either – unless voters insist on it.
Congress is in the pocket of the gun lobby. Follow the money. Sen. Marco Rubio – among other GOP senators – received more than $3 million from the NRA; President Trump’s campaign benefitted from $30 million. There is an old saw: “It is exceedingly difficult to convince a man (or woman) of something when his livelihood depends on not believing it.”
And, it is not just the gun-lobby money. Our elected representatives fail to enact tighter background checks and ban the sale of military-style assault rifles even though polls show the American public overwhelmingly favor such measures. Why? The answer, I believe, is because these politicians have made a self-interested calculation – that the gun owners who suspect that any common-sense gun regulations, however modest will lead eventually to restrictions on their right to own guns care passionately about this issue, and that intensity of feeling drives people to vote. In the low-turnout midterm elections in 2018 intensity can be decisive.
What can be done to change this calculation? People who want our elected leaders to act to end rampant gun violence must impose a litmus test: Pledge not to take NRA money, directly or indirectly, and support tougher gun control laws or I will vote against you even if I happen to agree with you on some other issues. Until people who support gun control become single-minded and committed on this issue by electing representatives who share their views, the epidemic of mass shootings will go on unabated. Tragically a rising death toll will never be enough to move Congress to act in ways that will make a meaningful difference until politicians start losing elections over this scourge.
C. Ronald Ellington