Gun control has been on the front burner for several months now. The massacre in Newtown, CT brought the focus of Americans to its small community and to the issue to guns in our society. It comes as no surprise that passing gun reform legislation has been more difficult than pulling teeth. There have been bipartisan measures which have fallen apart as well as heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Many Americans now believe in strong gun legislation but achieving this would be a greater overall political victory than just making our communities safer.
By passing stronger gun legislation, our politicians in Washington would be moving away from the lobbyists and interest groups which pump millions and millions of dollars into campaign funds and begin ruling for the people. The NRA is the most powerful lobbying group in Washington today. For several years, it was campaign suicide to even utter gun control. Politicians were afraid to touch the subject in fear that the NRA would bury them in the election. Many Republicans are still sympathetic to the NRA but the tide and consensus of the American people has changed.
Commentators and enthusiasts alike have requested to get the money out of politics. Money has driven political elections and campaigns from the lobbyists to the controversial Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court. With the massacre at Newtown, many legislators were no longer afraid of the gun lobby because they knew the American people were on the same page. The NRA has been losing its influence and has been hoping the "Connecticut Affect" will wear off and Americans will go back to liking guns again.
The lobbying goes both ways. The recent special election in Illinois to fill Jesse Jackson Jr.'s seat turned into a one topic election - gun control. Robin Kelly won the Democratic primary by simply touting to go to Washington with the intent to embrace and fight for stricter gun reform. Her Democratic challenger, former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, used to champion her A rating from the NRA. Coupled with the new found national crusade on gun control and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's SuperPAC pumping negative ad campaigns, Kelly won the primary solely on her stand on guns.
Our government is a representative type government meaning we the people elect individuals who we feel will represent our interests and propose legislation to reciprocate that. In a recent poll reported by Rachel Maddow, 91 percent of Americans support universal background checks for gun buyers. However, gun legislation is still crawling through congress and it is becoming even more difficult for universal background checks to be included in legislation. This is due to the Republicans who still remain sympathetic to the gun lobby in Washington. This is contradictory to our representative government because 91 percent of Americans desire universal background checks. This is one of the many contributing factors to a "broken" Washington. The lobbies hold too much money and money needs to be eliminated from politics.
Gun reform would be great for just the most obvious reasons. Magazine restrictions would have saved lives in the Newtown killings as well as the shooting in Tuscon at an event for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. There is no reason someone needs a thirty round magazine for anything. The assault weapons ban would help to keep military grade weapons off the streets. Law enforcement officers jobs are made much more difficult when assailants are using better weapons than them. Universal background checks would ensure that guns are being sold to responsible citizens. It is impossible to completely eliminate gun violence short of banning guns all together but the United States leads the rest of the world (by quite a startling margin) in gun violence and yearly deaths related to guns.
Just yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) did not include Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) assault weapons ban proposal in a new gun reform bill because he would not have had the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate. It is very troubling when the Republican congress and executive allowed the ban to expire in 2004. Now it will not even be included in the new bill for fear it will not pass the Senate.
Legislation on this issue would be the next step toward fixing Washington. It would demonstrate that lobbies do not have the clout on capital hill they once did and that our legislators are going to be proposing relevant laws which are driven by the evident problems in our society. Gun legislation means so much more than just safety, it means progress for a very broken, convoluted, and distrustful system of politics.