“All in all, today was a pretty shameful day for Washington.” – President Obama
While this statement was pretty much focused on the unsuccessful gun control efforts driven by the massacre in Newtown, the ramifications and considerations are obviously more widespread than just that incident. Yes, the NRA is a big part of the issues of the level of violence we are seeing – not all but a strong contributor. However, we are a nation of ADHD. The outrage and attention this past week on the events that began on Monday at the Boston Marathon will all but disappear to most by the end of the month. The shock and sadness from the recent tragedy at the Texas fertilizer plant will begin to fade for most within two weeks. Most in this country have all but forgotten about the 21 children brutally murdered less than 4 months ago. The inability of our people to sustain any real focused intensity for any extended period coupled with the obvious apathy and unwillingness to take action of any sort leaves most decisions to the small few in Washington DC who, to any person who actually pays attention and can think, have little interest in reflecting the wishes of our people. We have become accustomed to violence to the extent that I would suggest that no other civilized country is at. And much of it sits with our love affair with guns. Ignoring over 11,000 gun-related deaths a year should be no easy matter but yet it is.
Can we just blame the politicians? Not entirely but we the people are who should shoulder the real blame. We put them there and we let then stay there. These politicians really voted against increased gun control because of the 10% of the American public against the increased control vs. the 90% who supported it. Figure that math out. Many of the politicians knew the bill was the right thing to do but voted against it because those 10% are the ones they know will come out to vote. So the problem is with the 90% who voice that they care but are too lazy to extend the effort to execute their civic duty. How sad is that. I will guess that those 10% also were the ones that took the time and energy to write or call their politicians and made their voice heard. I actually wrote to mine this time around – and I’d like to think that it had some impact on Senator Pat Toomey’s (my senator in PA) decision to join Senator Joe Manchin in legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and the dangerously mentally ill to obtain guns while preserving the rights of law-abiding people to do so. Both Senators are from gun happy states and they figured it out and potentially put their next election at risk – and maybe they heard more from the people they represent. But obviously in many other states, the senators either didn’t hear from their constituents and/or lacked the conscience or fortitude to do what it right and what is needed to better protect our people. People, time to pick up a pen, a phone or your keyboard – is it really that hard to take that small step?
On the other hand, we still have organizations like the NRA who actually exist primarily to ensure that business, in this case gun manufacturers (and related industries) make as large a profit as possible. I, for one, have quite a problem with the power that has been handed off to an organization like the NRA. No matter their stated intent or objectives as an organization, there is something wrong where an entity that only really represents the interest of 10% of our country can influence so much. So to all you NRA supporters – do you really think they are looking out for your best interest? And it extends well beyond this recent stance against universal background checks. We can also see it in another perspective that is directly tied to the Boston Marathon bombings. Luckily, given the events of the week we have a conclusion (of a sort) in less than 5 days – we know who, which is really the core of any other actions. But let’s say that events didn’t unfold as they did and the perpetrators were a little smarter and we didn’t know who they were. We would still be looking at evidence left behind and a good deal of effort would be on the homemade bomb remnants, looking for traces of where things came from as a way to track back to individuals. If we were dependent on this evidence at this point, we can thank the NRA for the difficulty that would be encountered in tracing back where the devices were made based on the explosives used. And as a result, we are all a bit more at risk.
Almost 40 years ago the government developed a way to mark explosives to help trace terrorist bombs. But Congress blocked the research, even after a test of the device helped catch a bomber in Baltimore. Who was behind Congress in voting it down? – the explosives industry and the National Rifle Association, citing safety concerns. More likely driven by lost profit resulting from increased costs and oversight of the process. Then the Oklahoma City bombing put it back on the table and President Clinton proposed legislation to resume the Treasury Department study of the feasibility of mixing tracers, called “taggants,” into dynamite and other explosives. There was discussion to include the fertilizer used to make the Oklahoma City bomb, or other materials that detonate such bombs. A blast would scatter these tiny plastic tracers, which survive as a clue to help find the bomber. Opponents said the government had not proved the devices were safe. Tampering with explosives could put miners and others who work with them at risk, the Institute of Makers of Explosives said. Opponents also argued that the taggant program would be too expensive. The NRA again raised similar safety complaints about taggants in gunpowder, and also likened it to federal registration of firearms. The government wanted to mark the black powder used by owners of old-style muzzle loading guns because it is often used in pipe bombs. Oh-oh – another possibility of federal government in their house. Again, Congress took direction from the NRA and cut off all funding of the taggant program. Interesting, one of the phrases thrown around a the time was “The problem’s not fertilizer, the problem’s people.” Boy, does that sound familiar to the rhetoric of the pro-gun lobby today. Different day, same shit.
Will increasing the gun laws fix every problem and keep incidents like Newtown from ever happening? Not at all and that argument by the NRA should be soundly called as bullshit. To not realize as a country that we need to take steps to begin to reduce the likelihood is where the focus and conversation should be. I have reached a point in my life where absolutes never matter – it’s really about the journey to get there and what we can accomplish on that path forward.