Gun violence is nonpartisan. Why isn’t gun control legislation?
The only thing standing between gun control legislation and law is the NRA
With the occurrence of yet another mass shooting in Las Vegas, the gun control debate in America has arisen once more. Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight stipulated that Americans have never been more divided on gun control. My interpretation of this statistic is that this is the result of political strife rather than actual public opinion.The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) power and influence in Washington is undisputed by anyone familiar with Washington, and the effect has been a constant so-called “divide” over gun control legislation that may not even be as intense as the NRA wants everyone to know.
In a Quinnipiac University poll in late June of 2016, 26 percent of polled Republicans and 83 percent of polled Democrats supported implementing stricter gun laws. However, when it came to supporting background checks, people of both parties answered similarly —90 percent of Republicans and 98 percent of Democrats.
Evidently, most Americans support at least some level of gun control—including universal background checks—but what about Congress? Following the Orlando massacre in 2016, a Senate bill requiring notification of law enforcement when someone on the terrorist watchlist attempts to buy a weapon failed. Seeing as 86 percent of polled Americans supported this bill, it’s safe to say Congress does not share the same sentiments as the American people. Although this can be the result of nuanced political dissonance, it is—irregardlessly—a horrendous inconsistency between the people and their lawmakers.
A common piece of rhetoric used by anti-gun control special interest groups like the NRA is the notion that the federal government is susceptible to creating a “gun registry,” which NPR defines as a “database of gun transactions.” This is a fallacy, pure and simple.
First of all, federal law already prohibits the creation of a gun registry. Secondly, the closest thing we have to a gun registry is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, an incredibly low-tech, paper-based service which receives and processes over 1,000 gun trace requests per day with 70 percent accuracy through cumbersome manual labor. Any attempt to go digital is blocked by the NRA’s powerful political presence in Washington for its nonexistent step toward a universal gun registry.
There’s little to no political incentive for politicians to vote in favor of gun control measures; if Republicans vote for gun control, the NRA funds their political opponents. Calling for bipartisan gun control legislation barely reaches above a whisper in the filthy halls of the U.S. Capitol building, swarming with influence from the gun lobby, which, at one point, blocked a government initiative to conduct research on gun violence. We’ve seen President Obama humbled by Congress’s extraordinary inaction on the subject of gun control, turning to the public in emotional bully pulpits when measure after measure fails to pass either house of the legislative branch. We can see his frustration and his anger.
What can we gather from all of this? The answer is simple: gun control isn’t about policy, it’s about politics. The reason why gun control legislation hasn’t gained ground is because of money, leverage, and a culmination of all the things that make people hate politics.
When gun violence arrived at Congress’s doorstep in Alexandria this summer, I honestly thought gun control legislation efforts would gain traction. But it still didn’t. Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama’s 5th District even suggested politicians ought to be allowed to carry firearms, asserting that the solution to gun violence in America was, once again, more guns, because, well, of course he did.
The NRA uses politicians as microphones to sway public opinion against gun control, always falls back on the outdated Second Amendment and uses fiery language. It’s as if they’re saying, “You’re against the U.S. Constitution? The horror!” By doing so, the NRA succeeds in placing an anti-American label upon the foreheads of anyone who may seem like they’re disrespecting the constitution by casting doubts upon the Second Amendment. Frankly, it’s low and pathetic for the NRA to use our constitution—a document intended to preserve order and protect the American people from dangerous forces—as a source of propaganda.
Earlier this month, I came across a Tweet shared by a fellow colleague on Facebook in which a Twitter user suggested the Sandy Hook shooting signaled the end of the gun debate, because “once America decided that killing children was bearable, it was over.” I refuse to believe this. Americans are largely in favor of gun control legislation. The reason it doesn’t seem so is because of the constant gridlock in Congress thanks to the monstrous kraken that is the NRA and its repulsive appendages wrapping around each and every Republican politician.
Republican politicians need to understand that gun violence is indiscriminatory. If gun violence is nonpartisan, gun control should be as well. This isn’t a matter of politics, it’s a matter of human rights.
Mark Lu is a freshman in the School of Public Affairs and a staff columnist for The Eagle.