After the shooting last month in Aurora, Colo., New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested that cops should strike for tougher gun laws. Even after he backtracked, his remarks highlight just how craven other politicians are in the face of the NRA and other influential gun groups. Following yesterday’s massacre in Oak Creek, Wis., Salon asked a few gun control groups how to make gun control a viable political issue. Abridged versions of their answers follow.
Dan Gross, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:
The overwhelming majority of Americans from across the political spectrum favor sensible measures like background checks, which can prevent much of the gun violence that occurs in our nation -- measures that are completely consistent with the Second Amendment. A recent Frank Luntz poll shows that a full 74 percent of NRA members support background checks to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. The problem is the dramatic disconnect between what the American people want and what our elected officials -- even our presidential candidates -- are doing about it.
Cathie Whittenburg, States United to Prevent Gun Violence:
One of the challenges gun violence prevention advocates have always faced is how to educate people. The American public simply doesn’t understand how weak and basically nonexistent the gun laws are in this country and how militaristic and powerful the guns available are ... I would like to see the following question asked at candidate forums across the country:
“Would you please outline your plan to reduce gun violence in this country. And if your answer is to enforce the laws that are already in place, would you please point to the specific law you would enforce that would have prevented James Holmes from buying the military-style assault rifle and the 6,000 rounds of ammunition he used in the Aurora, Colo., shooting.
Ladd Everitt, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:
There is no magic elixir. But at the same time, the answer is simple. We have reached this point because the NRA has been successful in building a core of fanatical, single-issue voters on the gun issue. The politicians of our era -- who are known neither for their moral courage nor their adherence to principle -- hear them clearly and vote with the NRA to avoid the "hassle" of having to deal with irate constituents.
Now, people of conscience must become the irate constituents that no politician wants to hear from ... The movement sent to our elected officials should be two-fold. No. 1, if you do not act immediately to reform and strengthen our gun laws, I will vote against you every chance I get. No. 2, I will make it my personal mission to call every one of your donors that I can get ahold of and encourage them to defund you for putting our families at risk.
Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence:
It is the high-profile, mass shootings that are changing the dialogue and advancing the gun control agenda. More and more mothers, fathers, children and friends who have been victims, know victims or who are just tired of the senselessness of these deaths are calling for more regulation.
Every year about 200 people in Maine fail background checks at places like Cabela’s or LL Bean but that doesn’t necessarily stop someone from buying a gun. It literally takes a ride to the corner store to pick up a copy of Uncle Henry’s (a regional classified ads magazine) where there are hundreds of guns, including the same or similar weapons used in the Aurora shooting, available, no questions asked. In fact, Maine is becoming a known destination for gun trafficking for felons and other criminals who can easily acquire guns to bring back to states where laws are stricter.
We are starting to see a groundswell of public pressure beginning to make a difference and some of our elected officials are beginning to speak out without fear from the NRA. There are no party lines when it comes to gun violence and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the gun lobby and politicians to ignore the fact that a good majority of people, including NRA members, believe there should be more control over who may purchase guns.