Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Political Will vs the Will of Politics: Sandy Hook One Year Later


On December 14, 2012 20 year old Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT where in a matter of minutes he killed twenty young children and six staffers before taking his own life.  One year later we know Lanza acted alone but still do not know why.  One year later the same gun advocacy v. gun control battle lines are in place, legislation is stalled, and another tragedy has become fodder of politicians.  We declare war on nations, terror, drugs, poverty, but not on gun violence.  Is it because we don’t think we can win or is it because we are afraid to try?

Columbine was going to be the turning point.  The same was said about Virginia Tech, Tucson, and Aurora.  Mass shootings are so frequent we forget about Mark Orrin Barton, Jeffrey Weise, Robert Hawkins, Jiverly Wong, Scott Evans Dekkrai, and countless others.  Gun control advocates call for action, and gun rights advocates call for more guns; it is a battle where logic, compromise, and common sense fall victim, and demagoguery and emotion take over.  Defeatism kicks in, the problem is too big to solve, yet it can be solved if there is political will and electorate pressure.  Australian Prime Minister and that nation’s Parliament banned assault weapons after the 1996 mass killing of 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania by Martin Bryant who was equipped with two semiautomatic assault weapons.  Yes Australia does not have a 2nd Amendment, but this center-right coalition government worked with state and local governments to enact buyback programs (in the U.S. Tea Party leaders try to get buyback programs, not guns, banned) and institute an assault weapon ban.  Since 1996, there has not been a single mass shooting.  That’s political will.

In April Gallup Poll, 83% of Americans, including 73% of Republicans, said they would vote for a law that would require background checks for all gun purchases.  And yet the loudest voices on the right spread asinine claims that background checks will lead to a federal registry for all guns, that Hitler was able to kill 6 million Jews because he banned guns, the government will know on your door to take your guns, and that all mass shootings could have been prevented if more citizens were armed.  And sadly in April, an amendment that would have required mandatory background checks co-sponsored by two senators: Conservative Republican Pat Toomey and Conservative Democrat Joe Manchin failed to get the necessary 60 votes. The vote was lost when four Democrats: Baucus, Begich, Heitkamp, and Pryor voted nay to help their re-election bids, at least that’s what they believe.  No Political will.

Arizona’s junior Senator Jeff Flake sent a handwritten note to Caren Teves, the mother of an Aurora victim,   While we may not agree on every solution, strengthening background checks is something we can agree on."  Apparently the agreement lasted just a few days as Flake voted against the Manchin-Toomey Amendment.  I guess $362,000 in campaign contributions from the NRA trumps one hand written note.  No political will.

During the 1994 mid-term elections the Democrats lost the House and Senate partly due to the passage of the Brady Bill and an Assault Weapons Ban.  Just like Democrats lost the House in 2010 partly due to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, sometimes doing the right thing costs a hefty price.  Some may call it a pyrrhic victory, some may call it political suicide, and others will call it courage of convictions.  Is the political price more costly than the price on conscience?  Time will tell.

Sandy Hook was called the moment.  The moment when common sense would finally defeat politics in the decades long battle of gun rights.  America wanted action, even conservatives like Joe Scarborough said enough was enough.  But it wasn’t to be.  The NRA funded political machine made sure the media and main street were distracted and that Sandy Hook would join Virginia Tech, Columbine, and Aurora in the annals of ‘this time it’s different’. 

We don’t have a gun problem, we have a mental illness problem.  We don’t have a gun problem, we have a violent video game problem. Funny, other nations have mental illness and violent video games, but they don’t have over 300 MILLION guns.

But at the end of the day, like abortion and LGBT rights, gun control vs. gun advocacy is really about fund raising.  Get the masses fired up, urge them to donate, feed the political machines.  That is the will of politics.

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