My Loss Of Faith In Our Union
It’s safe to say that I have begun to question my faith in the political process and democracy in our great nation. Like most Americans, I’ve come to the point where each news story about a victim dying from gun violence reopens the wounds from a bloody epidemic that just won’t heal, making my hope for change bleak.
Throughout recent years, the scourge of gun violence in America has been illuminated by a number of tragic events, like the massacres at Virginia Tech, the Aurora movie theater, Tucson, Arizona and the Newtown Elementary school. These incidents all seem to remind us that there is an ever pervading amount of violence in our country killing our neighbors, children and fellow citizens. However, what’s even more troubling is the fact that we have yet to act as a nation to curb this violence.
Under our current system of laws, 87 Americans die from largely preventable gun violence every single day. On top of that, 40 percent of guns are sold without a background check and 80 percent of inmates report using a gun they acquired without a background check. While these stats are staggering, it’s refreshing that 90 percent of Americans support background checks for gun sales in order to prevent people who are a danger to themselves and others from buying firearms. Yet, my prospects that the overwhelming majority of Americans supporting common sense measures for gun safety would translate into legislation was diminished when the U.S. Senate defeated the Manchin-Toomey proposal last week. The bill, which requires those seeking to purchase a gun to undergo mental illness and criminal background checks, was shot down in a 54-46 vote. In that moment, I could feel the bullets that took Hadiya Pendleton’s life in Chicago and the 20 first graders in Newtown, Connecticut piercing our hearts and deeply frustrating our rationale. The blood of the 20,000 American children and teens that are shot and killed in one year lies on our hands, and, we the people, are just as guilty as the culprits holding the weapons.
Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords expressed the sentiment of the country perfectly when she shamed the Republicans and Democrats who voted against the bill for acting in “cowardice.” Also, a visibly upset President Obama described the senators who voted against it as being “intimidated” by the powers of special interests groups like the National Rifle Association, better known as the NRA.
However, the disheartening reality of the defeat of the bill is simply a consequence from our political system in which money and politics go hand in hand. We’ve come to a point where lawmakers sell out the American people in exchange for campaign money to get elected and re-elected to office. They’re willing to jeopardize the safety and well-being of American families in order to appease special interests and lobbying groups.
This practice grew as candidates running for office began to rely more and more on using advertisements and propaganda to defeat their opponents. As a result, their million dollar campaigns were funded by large companies who, in return, ask legislators to shape laws around their corporate interests.
A great example is the NRA, which since 1998 has spent $28.2 million on lobbying in Washington and has employed between 16 and 35 lobbyists in any given year. Also, the NRA’s membership stands around 4 million people who are single-issue voters. According to proponents of gun control legislation, the NRA is strong factor in the reason why lawmakers vote against measures to enforce gun safety in order to protect themselves from primary challenges threatened by and paid for by the pro-gun organization. In addition, they claim that people have yielded to irrational fears which have been artificially created by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.
As political discourse is preparing to shift gears towards immigration reform, these horrific events of gun violence will become old news. Therefore, my faith and aspirations for a safer America will remain dim, for now. I, like many of my fellow Americans, will patiently wait for the day in 2014 when I can stand up for the lives lost in Chicago or on a school campus by voting out all of the congressional and state legislature incumbents who voted against background checks, high capacity AR-15 assault rifles, and gun registration. On that day, it is my hope that my faith in democracy and our political process can be restored.
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