Enough of the ritual hand-wringing and “thoughts and prayers” following every mass shooting. Enough of the “debate” about whether it’s “too soon” to talk about gun control after every mass shooting. Enough of the nonsense about “politicizing” the slaughter of innocents.
Make no mistake, those murders are a result of politics. It’s politics — big money politics — that makes the United States number one in the world in gun ownership, gun-related homicides and mass shootings.
The gun lobby spent a record $15.8 million in 2021 and $2 million in the first quarter this year — $190 million since 1998, with more than $114 million of that since 2013.
Gun rights groups have contributed $50.5 million to federal candidates and party committees since 1989. Of that, 99% of direct contributions went to Republicans.
The NRA more than doubled what it spent on lobbying last year over the year before — from $2.2 million in 2020 to $4.9 million in 2021 — to block federal and state gun control measures such as universal background checks.
To stoke emotions, the gun lobby packages its messaging around the Second Amendment. But it’s really all about selling guns and ammo, because that’s who the gun lobby groups actually represent. The U.S. firearms industry sold nearly 20 million guns last year, its second-busiest on record next to 2020, when 22.8 million firearms were sold. The annual number of firearms manufactured in the U.S. has nearly tripled since 2000 and has risen sharply in the past three years, according to a report released by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives last week. It’s a multi-billion business.
Unsurprisingly, the gun lobby’s “answer” to mass shootings is to sell more guns, to arm more “law-abiding citizens.” And the legislators bought and paid for by the gun lobby follow suit — including those in Texas, where lawmakers have actually loosened gun laws — such as approving permitless carry last year — despite multiple mass shooting incidents in recent years. How’s that worked out?
Yet, legislators on the gun lobby’s “payroll” continue to parrot gun lobby talking points, weaving and dodging and failing to take meaningful action — steps that to the rest of the world are an obvious fix, steps that other countries have taken after just one mass shooting, steps that work.
That includes our local congressman, the NRA “A-rated” Lee Zeldin, who wants to bring his extremist gun politics to New York’s executive mansion.
Zeldin on March 11 voted against the Bipartisan Background Check Act, which passed 227 – 203, with all but eight Republicans voting against it.
He has cosponsored the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would allow people to carry concealed weapons in New York if they have the right to carry concealed firearms in any other state.
He opposed the New York’s S.A.F.E. Act, passed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a decade ago. The act bans the possession of assault weapons in New York (unless possessed prior to the legislation), bans high-capacity magazines, requires universal background checks for nearly all private sales of firearms and includes other safeguards. It requires reporting by mental health professionals when there is reason to believe a patient is likely to engage in conduct that will cause serious harm to themselves or others, suspends the patient’s license to possess a gun, and allows removal of the firearm by law enforcement authorities.
A few weeks before the Buffalo mass shooting, Zeldin, during an upstate campaign stop called for the repeal of the S.A.F.E. Act. He also called for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn N.Y.’s concealed carry law. He said he opposes “red flag” laws — which allow family members or law enforcement to petition for a court order temporarily barring people in crisis from accessing firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others.
It’s “a very slippery slope that could be targeting you law-abiding gun owners,” Zeldin said.
He also said he opposes gun-free zones, and supports a “stand your ground” law in New York, where state law imposes a duty to retreat before resorting to deadly force outside your home. At the same appearance, Zeldin also called for changes to state law concerning the state’s authority to grant or deny a gun permit.
“You should not have to prove to the government whether or not you get a permit. We need to change the standard from ‘may issue’ to ‘shall issue’ in this state,” Zeldin told the crowd.
A video of Zeldin’s pumped-up pro-gun screed was leaked to Spectrum News NY1, which published it on May 18.
He also boasted about being “a lifelong member of the NRA” and his A rating from the group.
Exclusive: In video obtained by NY1, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin calls for repealing New York’s post-Sandy Hook gun regulations and raises concerns about so-called ‘red flag laws.’ https://t.co/xlWZbgYM9X— Spectrum News NY1 (@NY1) May 19, 2022
Zeldin didn’t mention the nearly $75,000 in NRA contributions he’s accepted while representing Suffolk’s First Congressional District.
After the May 14 Buffalo shooting, Zeldin issued a statement expressing shock and heartbreak and decrying “violent hate in every form” and calling for “law-abiding citizens” to “be put back in charge.”
Ten days later, Zeldin was, he said, “shocked and saddened” once more, after a disturbed teenager who bought AR-15 platform rifles and high-capacity magazines right after his 18th birthday, murdered 19 children and two teachers in Ulvade, Texas.
For the majority of Americans, enough is enough — they favor stricter gun control laws.
For Zeldin and congressional Republicans, beholden to the gun lobby, there is no amount of gun violence that is finally “enough.” For them, it’s just more hypocritical condolences and “thoughts and prayers” as they try to deflect blame anywhere but their own inaction, reciting a script written for them by the gun lobby whose financial interests they protect. And they call themselves “pro-life.”
No, gun control laws won’t prevent all gun violence. And yes, every mass shooter is by definition mentally ill. But focusing on one of these to the exclusion of the other is as effective as “thoughts and prayers” are for healing the hearts of grieving parents, siblings and other family members of the 19 little children and their teachers whose bodies were shredded by hundreds of rounds of bullets in a Texas classroom this week. It does next to nothing.
And that’s exactly what the gun lobby wants.
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