America it’s Time to Make Congress Work for us not the NRA
This Time has to be Different
This time it can’t be business as usual. This time the outcome has to be different. That seemed to be the prevailing sentiment throughout America following the tragic killing of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, Connecticut in December. The heinous nature and sheer brutality of the murders and the timing-right before Christmas- seemed to galvanize the nation to finally take meaningful action to curb the scourge of gun violence that has plagued our country for far too long. Although 34 Americans are killed by gun violence everyday which means over 11,000 die annually by someone wielding a deadly weapon, those sobering statistics never seemed to be enough to move the average American to demand action. After all, those individual murders could be dismissed as local urban violence, gang related, domestic violence, home invasions and somehow acceptable. But the Newtown incident in Connecticut was different. These were little children some as young as 5 years old gunned down and shot multiple times by a madman using an assault weapon. Surely this would be a watershed moment. President Obama convened a task force chaired by vice president Biden. The task force included police commissioners, gun rights advocates and even the National Rifle Association. Momentum and public opinion appeared to be favoring a major change in gun laws. Even the NRA membership favored a new direction. The membership understood that what was best for America was best for their organization. Following the recommendations of the task force, the president signed an unprecedented number of executive orders into law. However more meaningful action like an assault weapons ban would be left to Congress. Now truly meaningful change will be left to the same members of Congress whose deafening silence spoke volumes in the immediate aftermath of the killing of all of those little children. While there were several senators and representatives that spoke out in favor of stricter gun laws and background checks in the days following the murders, it is telling that those members of Congress cowed by the NRA remained silent. Members of Congress that crave any opportunity to seize the national spotlight were nowhere to be found on the Sunday morning news programs. But now a mere 4 weeks after the murders-roughly one day for each victim-the voices of opposition are emerging. Perhaps buoyed by the disgraceful NRA ad campaign that dragged the president’s daughters into the argument, members like Rand Paul have begun spewing rhetoric right out of the NRA’s playbook. Others dismiss the incident as a mental health issue and nothing more. Although assault weapons were used in most of the mass killings, there are those that argue that implementing an assault weapons ban won’t matter citing the fact that their use in murders is uncommon. I guess all of those people killed with assault weapons don’t matter. A common sense measure like limiting the number of rounds that can be placed in a cartridge to 10 is nearly laughed off by the NRA as shortsighted because the NRA argues that even an amateur shooter could reload in about a second. The NRA and their representatives in Congress and yes I did say their representatives will argue that this is just another attack on their second Amendment rights. Of course to the NRA any attempt to implement common sense laws like stricter background checks is an attempt to restrict their rights. To them there cannot be any compromise on this issue. To some gun rights advocates, gun ownership will somehow provide protection against a tyrannical government. They believe that any compromise is a slippery slope toward the day when no American can own a gun. They make this argument despite the fact that there is no serious proposal or discussion to outlaw the ownership of guns. They use these talking points to energize their membership and to defeat any legislation with which they disagree. And I must say it appears that it is working again. The NRA is counting on time passing, the news media shifting its attention to other issues and the short attention span of Americans to win. But that formula which has worked so well in the past doesn’t have to work this time. The NRA can be defeated. Their greatest fear is that they will be exposed as weaker than the public believes they are. It is very analogous to the bully in the schoolyard. No one stands up to the bully because of his reputation. However once the bully is challenged and publicly defeated the perception of his invincibility is destroyed. America it is time to stand up to the bully. And if your congressional delegation doesn’t have the backbone to do it, we need to help them grow the backbone. Here is what you can do. It is time for all Americans that support stricter gun laws to stand up and let your voices be heard. You must call, write, visit or e-mail your senators and representatives and let them know that you will not stand for business as usual- Not this time. Their contact information can be found online. Take a page out of the Tea party playbook and protest at the offices of your elected officials. If you belong to an organization like a fraternity or sorority or a civic association focus your energy on this issue. Disrupt their events if you must. Do whatever you need to do to let them know that you want this time to be different. Remind them that they work for you- not the NRA. After all you are far more powerful than any lobbyist, organization, PAC or caucus. We must honor those children, teachers and all Americans that are killed by gun violence, including the 34 that you will hear about tonight on the newscasts throughout the country. We must do our part for them. We must reassure their families that they did not die in vain that their murders aren’t business as usual. Because given the circumstances of 20 children gunned down in a peaceful New England town 11 days before Christmas, if we can’t win this time when can we?
Michael S. Nixon