Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter, who represents Aurora, Colorado was on Face the Nation this morning to point out that gun laws are an issue for Congress, not the President, and that Congress must address the expired assault weapons ban.
Perlmutter started off by telling the story of a young woman who had two friends who were shot in the Aurora shootings. She urged the congressman to discuss the folks who have been hurt and the community that’s been hurt, and to get the audiences’ sympathy and prayers.
When asked about gun laws specifically, Congressman Perlmutter said, “You know, should we reinstate the assault weapons ban? I think we should, and I think that’s where it starts. We ought to be taking a look at how this guy was able to accumulate so much ammunition. He had enough ammunition for, like, a small army. There’s something wrong about that.”
Referencing Mayor Bloomberg’s call for the Presidential candidates to address this issue, Perlmutter said the mayor’s focus is misplaced. “I think he’s putting his finger on the wrong spot. This is a Congressional issue. I don’t think we can avoid it. Carolyn McCarthy from New York, you know, has been a big advocate in this arena, and I’m going to be with her.”
The Congressman is correct in that this is an issue for Congress, where laws are made, rather than the presidential candidates. But the truth of the matter is that no matter how much pain and suffering communities go through, the NRA’s lock on our gun laws is so strong it would be foolish to think we could actually get movement on this issue, especially in an election year.
Not only does the NRA throw money against candidates it perceives as even considering pro gun regulation, but just take a look at state laws like Stand Your Ground, which were funded by the NRA and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). According to The Wall Street Journal, these state laws “have resulted in an average 50 percent increase in “justifiable homicides” in the years after their passage, while other states experience little or no change.” But we still can’t have a real discussion about policy because the NRA scares our Congressional members into silent complicity.
Though the NRA is a non-profit 501(c)(4) lobbying group, they are thought to be the most powerful lobbying group on the country. In a 1999 Fortune survey, lawmakers and congressional staffers said they considered the NRA the most influential lobbying group. In 2008, the NRA spent $10 million on the Presidential election circulating widely discredited accusations against President Obama.
Former President Bill Clinton wrote in his book My Life about the NRA’s successful take down of congressional targets, “The NRA was an unforgiving master: one strike and you’re out. The gun lobby claimed to have defeated nineteen of the twenty-four members on its hit list. They did at least that much damage and could rightly claim to have made Gingrich the House Speaker.”
However, Ed Rendell recently called out the cowards in Congress on failing to stand up to the NRA. Jason Easley pointed out in that article that the NRA has lost much of its influence since it became a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, violating its own principles in order to support Republican candidates:
What members of Congress don’t comprehend is that the NRA’s power is vastly overstated. Since the organization became nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, they have lost a great deal of their influence.
How hypocritical has the NRA become?
They welcomed Mitt Romney and his record of limiting gun ownership to their convention with open arms. The NRA supported John McCain in 2008, even though McCain has never been shy about his anti-gun positions.
With the NRA controlling Congress, gun laws are impervious to fact. The NRA’s stance seems to be that the rights of gun owner come ahead of public safety. While in reality, even members of the NRA favor some gun regulations, the organization itself refuses to broker even the smallest nod to public safety concerns. The New York Times reported:
In flat rebuttal of N.R.A. propaganda, the findings showed that 69 percent of N.R.A. members supported closing the notorious gun-show loophole that invites laissez-faire arms dealing outside registration requirements.
Even more members, 82 percent, favored banning gun purchases to suspects on terrorist watch lists who are now free to arm. And 69 percent disagreed with Congressionally imposed rules against sharing federal gun-trace information with state and local police agencies.
NRA money and influence still talks, as we saw in the recent Holder contempt proceedings based on the crazy Fast and Furious conspiracy that Obama wanted to take guns away so he let guns walk. The NRA backed a yes on contempt vote, and even Democrats in NRA heavy districts voted in favor of the obvious non-issue.
What should be, what would be, if public safety were our prime concern, will not be, because Congress is controlled by special interest groups like the NRA. They matter more than the human lives and the life-long terror inflicted on survivors of mass murders.
It’s sad to say but the Congressman is going to have to find a way to go home to Aurora and tell his constituents that no one in Congress cared to hear their story in any detail or think about what it means for the survivors and the loved ones of the victims, because Congress is still reacting to the NRA like it’s 1999.