Shooting Democracy’s Brains Out
I’m not going to lie; I’ve been putting this off for quite awhile now. I haven’t wanted to write a column about the gun epidemic in America. First of all, it’s never wise to piss off a bunch of people who, by definition, are packing heat. Second, I understand how divisive this issue is in the United States. I may like to stir the pot a bit, but c’mon, I’m not trying to rile the masses or anything. Gun control is a sticky subject around these parts, but perhaps that’s also why it has become so rampantly out of control. All I know is that after yet another mass shooting, this time in a gay nightclub in Orlando, I, like the Democratic members of Congress who held a sit in last week to protest the gun lobby’s continued manipulation of the political system, felt it was finally time to say something in an effort to spur some sort of legislative action, even if that political statement falls on deaf ears.
Because it will. I decided to stop deluding myself about that long ago. Fifty people died in a brutal attack with an assault rifle only necessary for killing large numbers of human victims, and still nothing will get done. Some Democrats will stage a sit-in, and some folks, like me, will scream at the top of their lungs that we need some sort of meaningful gun control legislation. Whoopdee fucking doo. It all means jack squat because nothing will come from it.
Why? Well, first off, please don’t feed me more of that nonsense that the second amendment prohibits any gun legislation by Congress. The second amendment is like the freaking Bible for crying out loud- it’s always the uninformed posers who haven’t even read the damn thing that point to it most and try to use it to defend positions it doesn’t really defend. The second amendment, for those of you who would actually care to read it, goes as follows, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Now, I don’t mean to get all English-teachery on you, but that first part of the sentence, it’s called a dependent clause, and believe it or not, it is vital to the rest of the sentence. In fact, it makes the second part, that whole right to bear arms thing, conditional upon their use in the formation of a well-regulated militia. People are not purchasing assault rifles to form militias. You know why? Because this is not 1787, and we are not using musket loaders to protect our homesteads from territorial land disputes. The people who wrote the second amendment granted the basic right of self-defense, not the capacity to take out an entire movie theater packed with innocent civilians. Common sense gun legislation, such as background checks and prohibitions of certain classes of firearms, tries to confront the latter without impeding on the former.
But don’t you worry, my fanatical gun-toting friends- ain’t nothing gonna happen to your right to “keep and bear” (did anyone notice the word “shoot” does not happen to be in there?) all the high-powered assault rifles and armor-piercing bullets you may need for your next confrontation with a Mexican drug cartel trying to kick you and your family off your ranch. That’s because the NRA spent a whopping $36 million dollars in the 2014 elections cycle alone to ensure that even the most sensible gun legislation reforms were shelved before they could be voted on. Despite numerous studies suggesting that 90% of Americans favor background checks for all gun purchases, we won’t do a damn thing, and that’s where our democracy has gone so horribly awry.
With each mounting mass shooting in our country, the outcry for gun legislation rings louder and louder, but the politicians can’t hear a thing because their ears are stuffed with dollar bills from the gun industry. 56% of Americans support legislation banning assault rifles like the one used in the recent Orlando incident, but no progress is made because lobbying unduly represents the voices of the few at the expense of the voices of the majority. When it comes to modern democracy in the United States, some voices are given more worth than others, and we all know it’s the voices backed with money that really count.
This is not what our country’s visionaries had in mind. You can read their intention in the Federalist Papers, and while Hamilton and Madison argued for a representative democracy to ensure a thoughtful leadership that was not always at the mercy of the majority, they wanted a fair and open legislative process that precluded the over-representation of special interest groups like the NRA who wanted to usurp the input of everyday citizens. They spoke of factions, but what they didn’t factor in were factions with money- the kind of money that could buy and sell political influence by swaying elections.
Let’s face it- when it comes to gun legislation, 56% of you, those who favor strengthening our country’s gun laws, you don’t matter whatsoever. That’s because the 2% of Americans whose perspectives are represented by the NRA- their voices matter more than yours. Which leads me to wonder: Is our democracy being led off the cliff to it’s own demise in the blind hope of catching the elusive carrot dangling right in front of its face, or is it being forced to jump off at gunpoint?
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every TUESDAY and FRIDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com