"The NRA has donated a paltry $3,533,294 to all current members of Congress since 1998” (Politifact).
Keep this fact in mind as we go through this article. Another fact I want us to keep in mind is that in 2014, 94% of House elections and 82% in the Senate were won by the candidate that spent more money. Money drives our democracy. Ever since the Citizens United ruling where the court decided that money was a form of political expression, PACs and interest groups have been able to pour as much money as they possibly can into our democracy to swing the vote in their favor.
One such organization is the National Rifle Association or NRA. Once a tame marksman’s club, the NRA is now a political machine that does whatever it can to keep any law restricting the ownership and sales of firearms off the books and to promote any laws that will encourage the ownership of guns. You might think I am over exaggerating when I say any law, but in 2011, the NRA pushed a law through the Florida legislature that banned physicians from asking if there is a gun in the home. This means that doctors cannot ask their patients with dementia or serious mental illnesses if there is a firearm, in order to essentially do their jobs and protect their patients from danger. This is just one of the dozens of examples in which the NRA has intentionally manipulated a legislature to go against basic common sense.
With that being said, I have no animosity for guns, nor do I believe they should be banned (I even imagine myself owning a firearm when I am older). All I ask is for common-sense gun reforms, like basic universal background checks and red flag laws, to be passed. Laws so that when I hear a bang in the hallway at school, I do not have to think about whether I am about to die. It turns out that a lot of Americans agree with me. When polled, 92% of Americans said they favor universal background checks (a NYT/CBS poll). So why are we unable to get such popular and common-sense legislation through Congress? I call your attention back to our figure at the top—$3,533,294 pumped into our federal legislature by the NRA.
This brings us to our central point. When a PAC is able to buy the votes necessary to make legislators vote against what their constituents clearly want, it violates our basic and fundamental system of a democratic republic. We elect our leaders directly to serve our needs in congress and fight for the legislation that will allow us to prosper. When a PAC is able to influence a politician more than his or her constituents, we see a grand failure of the liberty and democracy set up by our founding fathers.
So how do we fix this? Step one is to lobby your representative if they are not supporting common-sense gun reform. The more that politicians have to acknowledge how they neglect their basic duties as representatives, the more accountability we project onto them. Next is a reform of our campaign finance system. To be honest, I do not have a solution for this one, but what I do know is, when the rich control democracy, that is not a democracy. Step three is to never stop talking about it. We cannot wait for the next mass shooting— the next batch of kids to be murdered— to reignite the conversation around guns. The conversation should already be roaring, with change on the way.
As mentioned before, I do not hate guns, and I do not think that guns are the root of all violent crime in America. But when an organization tells you “people kill people” and goes to every length possible to put deadly weapons in the hands of all people (dangerous or not), it is time to stop letting that organization puppeteer our politicians.
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