Last week marked another clash between opposing factions over implementation of new gun-control legislation, with both sides vowing to fight to the very end concerning the issue.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from those in support of and those against new laws aimed at curbing gun violence in the US. Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords gave a very compelling opening statement:
“Thank you for inviting me here today. This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous, Americans are counting on you. Thank you.”
Giffords was severely wounded by a deranged gunman in 2011 during an assassination attempt that left her permanently impaired. The attack killed six people and wounded more than a dozen others.
On the other side of the issue, gun-rights activist and attorney Gayle Trotter testified that an assault weapons ban would "disarm" vulnerable women and "put them at a severe disadvantage" in fights with multiple criminals.
Trotter, a senior fellow at the conservative Independent Women's Forum, argued, "An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon. And the peace of mind she has ... knowing she has a scary-looking gun gives her more courage when she's fighting hardened violent criminals."
National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre also spoke before the committee. LaPierre made headlines following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, including 20 first- and second-graders, when he proposed that schools be staffed with armed guards. He also said he supports arming teachers.
Last Wednesday, LaPierre argued that universal background checks made absolutely no sense in the "real world."
"None of it makes any sense in the real world!" he said. "We care about safety, and we support what works."
When asked specifically if he favored closing the loophole that allows individuals to purchase firearms at a gun show without a background check, LaPierre replied pointedly, "I do not." There was also a report of a brief confrontation between a cameraman and one of LaPierre's bodyguards as he arrived for the hearing.
The Senate committee also heard testimony from constitutional law professor David Kopel, Baltimore police chief Jim Johnson and retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, husband of former congresswoman Giffords.
The issue of gun control has intensified in the wake of recent mass shootings in the US. There is also another consequence of this upheaval. These incidents have also cast a harsh but needed spotlight on the flawed lobbying system on Capitol Hill. We now see that even as most American people are in favor of revising gun laws, the minority that is represented by the NRA is already arraying to apply major pressure on lawmakers.
Lobbies were originally set up as a way for groups to petition lawmakers concerning a variety of issues. But these days the lobby system has become little more than a legalized form of bribery on the part of lawmakers.
Many deep-pocketed organizations have perverted the system in such a way that it now, in many cases, has subverted the will of the people. Lawmakers have become so intimately entangled and intertwined within the far-reaching tentacles of groups like the NRA that some of them appear to have lost sight of the fact that they were elected by the people to represent the people.
It isn't difficult to imagine some elected officials cowering in fear of the big, bad NRA because it has threatened to take away campaign money or other little stipends they receive for doing its bidding. When special interests and industry can exert more power over our officials than the people, it is a sign that serious problems exist within that system.
When people are clamoring for justice and safety, and legislators ignore the will of the people over the word of an organization that cloaks itself with the American flag and proclaims it speaks for all Americans, there is a problem. When the heads of these organizations can publicly and boldly proclaim that no new legislation will pass, something is seriously wrong. Who are they to presume what our elected officials will do, and what makes them so sure of it?
When our duly elected officials fear the wrath of special interests over the will of the American people, this is a signal that it is time for a change. When a legislator worries because the NRA is scoring how they vote on an issue, that lawmaker has ceased to be a representative of the people and has become a puppet of special interests.
Right now lawmakers are faced with one of the most important issues of this decade. They are faced with providing a workable solution to curb the rampant gun violence in America while simultaneously attempting to preserve the amendment that gives Americans the right to own firearms.
What will our lawmakers do? Will they resist the threats and the temptations laid down by the NRA, or will they succumb to them?
This is an opportunity for our officials to stand up to the bullying brought to bear by organizations like the NRA. When Americans are dying daily from gun violence, when scores of people are gunned down in public places, it's time for something to give. When the inner cities of America have become war zones flooded with illegal firearms, it is time to act.
Do we want an America whose legacy is one of peace and prosperity, or do we want one of armed guards in schools and our children dressed as if preparing for combat to attend them? Do we want safety for our families under the rule of law, or do we want to return to the days of the Old West and frontier justice?