Why cant’ we have gun control?
The recent mass shooting at Parkland High School in Florida has once again brought the issue of gun control legislation to the forefront of our collective consciousness as it dominates the national news. But here’s a question that is rarely asked and never answered satisfactorily by any politician I have ever seen: Why is it that in spite of the fact that a majority of the voters of both major political parties support legislation addressing gun control issues their representatives continue to ignore them? A recent survey by the non-partisan Pew Research Center demonstrates that there is broad bipartisan support for the following:
1. Preventing the mentally ill from purchasing guns. (D – 89 percent, R – 89 percent).
2. Barring gun purchases by people on no-fly or watch lists (D – 85 percent, R – 82 percent).
3. Background checks for private sales and at gun shows (D – 90 percent, R – 77 percent).
4. Banning assault-style weapons (D – 80 percent, R – 54 percent).
5. Creating a federal database to track gun sales (D – 84 percent, R – 56 percent).
Yet none of these proposals can even get a fair hearing from our legislators.
Surely we should be able to get our elected representatives to actually do something on these proposals. After all, their constituents are in agreement by substantial margins. We have to ask ourselves why our representatives are not listening to the people they supposedly represent.
The truth is that our representatives do not represent us. They represent the people that get them elected and, most often, that means a combination of the following:
1. Party leadership – providing electoral infrastructure and funds.
2. Super PACS – providing support for specific issues or candidates.
3. Dark Money (politically active nonprofits).
The trend away from constituent influence and toward special interests accelerated rapidly following the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that declared, “corporations are people,” and money is “free speach.”
My point is that we can have this debate about guns and what to do about the tragedies that continue to occur over and over and over again, but until we fix the system, the debate will be meaningless. We already agree on some very substantial steps that could be taken to reduce the probability of these horrific events taking the lives of our children. But our “representatives” are not listening to us. They’re listening to the NRA and gun manufacturing lobbyists, because they fear the loss of their financial support for their election campaigns.
But here’s the good news. It doesn’t have to be this way. The dirty little secret that politicians of all stripes don’t want us to know is that we actually do have the power to change things if we really care enough. Trump understood this and understood how to manipulate his supporters through his reality TV persona. And a large part of the news media, thanks to their greed for eyeballs to satisfy their advertisers, participated.
FACT: Donald Trump was elected by less than 27.5 percent of the voting-eligible population. Of the 230,585,915 VEP, just 62,979,879 voted for Trump. If we look at it compared to the total voting age population (VAP = 250,055,734) it drops to just 25 percent.
We can’t cry about our representatives not representing us if we don’t participate. The actual turnout was approximately 58 percent, and that was a good year for us. The last time that the turnout rate in a U.S. presidential election was above 60 percent was in 1968 (60.7 percent). If we really cared about the issues we say we do, including gun control and how money influences our politics, we should be fighting like hell to get our fellow citizens involved at every level starting with local elections. We should be holding our elected officials feet to the fire when they engage in voter suppression activities like gerrymandering and purging voter registration roles of people who fit a demographic that doesn’t match the officials’ supporters.
That solution to this and many other national issues is really very simple. Get people to vote. The people actually can make a difference if they can be motiviated to exercise the political power they posess. Getting them to understand the nature of their power is really the task that we all face. Let’s just do it this year. Let’s get people to vote.
Ronald Cicotte is a resident of Nashua.