According to nearly a dozen reputable national polls conducted over the past month, an overwhelming majority of the American public favors stricter, tighter gun laws. In its review of nine recent polls -- including those run by Gallup, Pew Research, CNN/Time, CBS/New York Times and Fox News (!) -- Constitution Daily found an average of 88% of the public favoring universal background checks. Moreover by an average of 57%, people favored a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips, while 56% of those polled approved of a ban on assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons. In other findings:
- About 50% of the people questioned by the three most conservative polling organizations, were concerned that gun-control legislation would take weapons away from them, or believed protection from gun violence was a lesser concern than protecting their Second Amendment rights.
- In addition to background checks, another idea that has widespread support is devoting more funds and attention to mental health issues. An average of 83% of people surveyed in four polls favored increased attention to mental health programs.
- Of the 12 ideas that appeared across the grouping of all nine polls, the least popular was arming teachers and school officials with guns. It only had a support rate of 41%.
Despite these findings, Congress -- which in a recent Think Progress poll was found to be held in far lower esteem than Genghis Kahn, used car salesmen, lice and the band Nickleback (formally known as "The Village Idiots") -- Congress has yet to do much more than
cower before Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association. (This just in: on today's "Meet the Press," LaPierre declared that background checks were based on "a dishonest premise," and said that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- an advocate of stricter gun control who has given millions of dollars toward tighter regulation through Mayors Against Illegal Guns -- has an "insane" approach to gun control. Bloomberg supports universal background checks, as well as a ban on assault weapons and an upgraded gun-tracking system -- all measures the NRA opposes.)
Despite LaPierre's rhetoric and his group's deep pockets, the NRA is increasingly being shown for what it truly it is: a blustering band of paper tigers whose roar is far more chimeric than concrete. Need proof? In the 2012 election, the NRA spent more than $18 million, making contributions to 140 incumbents (111 Republicans and 29 Democrats); 95% of those dollars were spent on races in which their preferred candidate lost -- this according to data compiled by the Sunlight Foundation. Moreover the NRA spent more than $100,000 in seven Senate races in 2012. On Election Day, their preferred candidate lost
in six of those races, often by healthy margins. In three of those states (Florida, Missouri and Maine, their candidates lost by more than 10 points. Similarly, of the 26
members of the House of Representatives who lost on Election Day, 18 were endorsed by the NRA.
Despite the NRA's dismal track record, nearly every Congressional Republican -- and a sizeable number of Democrats as well -- are loathe to support any gun control measure with teeth, such as reinstating the assault weapons ban, severely limiting the number of rounds in a magazine or taxing the daylights out of bullets. (Do check out this fascinating interactive website to see where your senators and representative stand on gun control and what "grade" they have received from the NRA)
While it is undoubtedly true that no new law or set of laws will ever put an end to gun violence in America, to do nothing -- or next to nothing -- is not only irresponsible; it is a frontal assault on the will of the people. Publica locutus est -- the public has spoken. We want Congress to enact significant gun reform legislation. And what is their response? Publico damnari! -- "The public be damned!" This attitude, of course, extends well beyond the issue of what Congress is going to do -- or not do -- about guns and ammo. The detached arrogance of publico damnari! -- again, meaning "The public be damned" -- is both overwhelming and omnipresent. It is largely nourished by truckloads of cash provided by corporations and a handful of mostly right-wing billionaires who owe everything to Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia (RATS) and Kennedy for their decision in the Citizen's United case. It will be recalled in this decision -- which, back in October 2010 I wrote was "Worse Than Dred Scott," the court declared that corporations had the same constitutional rights as people, and that individuals could contribute unlimited sums of money just so long as it wasn't to a specific candidate. At the time, I noted that, ". . . in giving corporations and anonymous 'civic-minded' mega-billionaires the legal right to deluge the political system with dollars, they have hastened the transition of America from a capitalist to a corporatist state." In that essay, I also wondered aloud if, "there is any power on earth that might one day lead to the nullification of Citizens United?" The answer to that question is "perhaps."
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Florida Representative Ted Deutch have introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. To date, 11 states and more than 300 cities and towns have passed resolutions calling for the ruling to be overturned. In announcing his proposed constitutional amendment, Senator Sanders noted:
What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to tell billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, 'You own and control Wall Street. You own and control coal companies. You own and control oil companies. Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we're going to give you the opportunity to own and control the United States government.’ That is the essence of what Citizens United is all about. That is why this disastrous decision must be reversed."
If passed by Congress and then ratified by three-quarters of the states (a big "IF"), the Sanders/Deutch proposal, "The Democracy is For People Amendment," would, as Senator Sanders explains, " . . . effectively prevent corporations from bankrolling election campaigns. Congress and states would have specific authority to regulate campaign finances by, for example, limiting donations, requiring disclosure of donors or creating public-financing systems for campaigns." Much of the publico damnari! attitude is made possible by the fear that unless one toes the line -- as set by the richest of the rich and the craziest of the crazy -- they will be voted out of office. This attitude undergirds far more than the current gun debate; it is the launching pad for most of the critical issues facing Congress -- from immigration and taxes to global warming, healthcare and the deficit. I for one believe that The Democracy is For People Amendment, Quixotic though it may be, is terribly important. For unless and until we can drive big, big, big money out of the political system, publico damnari! will continue being the politician's favorite cheer.
For anyone interested in The Democracy is For People Amendment, please visit the Public Citizen website. Together, we can change publico damnari! -- "The public be damned" -- to super omnia volutatem populi -- "Above all, the will of the people . . ."
ולכל הקוראים היהודים שלי את מיטב איחולים לפסח כשר ושמח
©2013 Kurt F. Stone