Founded by Drew Pearson 1932
People and president vs. the gun lobby
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – Running for office several times during the decade he served as governor of Vermont, Howard Dean had the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. Some people find that surprising because Dean ran for president as an outspoken liberal, but it’s easy to explain, Dean said in a recent television interview. Members of the NRA in Vermont are hunters and sportsmen, and respect reasonable restraints on gun ownership.
According to polls, 90 percent of the public support expanded background checks of people who purchase guns, and that includes 80 percent of gun owners, and 80 percent of Republicans. Yet the NRA continues to block closing of the gun-show loophole, which allows some 40 percent of gun sale transactions to take place without a background check.
The NRA is not responding to rank and file members in Vermont and other states around the country where there is a strong gun culture. It is doing the bidding of gun manufacturers, not the sportsmen who once were the backbone of the organization.
Historically, powerful moneyed interests have always had undue influence on Congress. More than a century ago the Robber Barons flexed their muscles as a collection of economic interests – oil, railroads and steel. They bought the loyalty of politicians and dictated not only what happened in Washington but in state legislatures around the country.
Corporate money and its influence over elected officials prompted Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., to champion and pass bipartisan campaign finance reform in 2002. But under the guise of equating political donations with free speech, the Supreme Court chipped away at McCain-Feingold and then, in the 2010 Citizens United case, the Court lifted almost all restraints on political giving.
That’s the world we’re living in now, and it helps explain why there is such a gap between what the voters want in common-sense gun reforms, and what Congress is prepared to do. It has been more than 100 days since 28 people were gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut, including 20 six-year-olds, and Congress is still dithering over what to do, with a strong sense that in the end the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would like to do nothing.
Congress is on Easter break through next week, and a number of groups formed in the wake of the Newtown tragedy are making their voices heard in congressional districts around the country, urging lawmakers to come back and vote for a package of remedies to reduce gun violence. These groups want to demonstrate that they too have clout, that the lawmakers will have more to fear than the NRA on Election Day.
Thursday at the White House, President Obama stood in the East Room flanked by 21 grieving women who had lost children to gun violence as recently as 35 days ago. In an emotionally charged speech, the president tried to rekindle the urgency Americans felt after Newtown.
“We need everybody to remember how we felt 100 days ago and make sure that what we said at that time wasn’t just a bunch of platitudes – that we meant it,” he said, urging anybody who’s listening to contact their member of Congress and make their views heard, “and if enough members of Congress take a stand for cooperation and common sense, and lead, and don’t get squishy because time has passed and maybe it’s not on the news every single day,” then lawmakers in the thrall of the NRA might at last be persuaded to take a chance, finally realizing that the weight of public opinion is on the other side.
When the people and the president are on one side, and the gun lobby is on the other, and the gun lobby is winning, something is terribly wrong.
© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND