Sunday, March 24, 2013

An Open Letter to Senator Harry Reid

Dear Mr. Reid,

The news this past week was that the ban on assault rifles (included in Sen. Feinstein’s proposed bill) will not be part of any bill put forward for consideration by the senate. Your reasoning was that there are not enough votes for it to pass. I would very much like to see our congress work in the light of day rather than hearing about what you say goes on in the back rooms. The majority of Americans favor stricter gun legislation .  If our elected representatives are not willing to step forward and do what needs to be done in terms of decreasing gun violence, then I would like to see who it is that is unwilling. Put a decent bill before the senate. If there are not enough votes, as you claim, let the public see who it is that will not vote for a sensible gun law. Even most NRA members favor background checks and gun registration  yet we have elected leaders who themselves appear to be “under the gun” and unable to do anything to improve the situation.

The current news is that there is a softer bill being considered, one that will expand background checks but will not address the sale of assault rifles. At least that is something, but I fear that it is too timid a measure for the societal problem our country has with guns.  It has been demonstrated, in the case of Australia’s gun control legislation, that a ban on semi-automatic rifles can indeed reduce mass shootings and firearm deaths.    We need a government that works and a congress that can take action. We do not need elected officials held captive by a gun lobby that speaks for the gun-making industry rather than for gun owners.  No one believes that the NRA got all those millions of dollars to lobby from membership fees. They speak for the industry which favors profits over any pretense of constitutional rights. That industry is now using the threat that gun control will result in a loss of jobs – same old tired corporate response trying to pretend to be for the working people, claiming that they are the job creators.

I would like to come back to the notion of not bringing something to a vote unless the votes are that to pass it. What this does is to make congress less accountable to the public. We would like to see the bills that are considered, let the senate vote and let us see how they vote. If you ask a senator in private how he will vote, he how do I know he would vote the same way if the bill were actually presented and he knew the public would be aware of his vote?  Furthermore, we can only take your word for it that there would not be enough votes – we do not have the ability to see with our own eyes if this is the actual truth.  Not bringing a bill to vote due to so-called lack of votes is no better than Speaker Boehner refusing to allow a bill to come to a vote if his party doesn’t like it.  We need more governing in the clear light of day rather than back-room deals by elected officials.  By actually bringing more bills for consideration, it will allow us see who is able to take the lead and vote for the good of the country rather that the wishes of the lobbyists or the party bosses. The voting public has a right to know.  This would mean an increase in bills before the congress, and you may have to work more than three days a week, but our country might be better for it.

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[For more information, there is a helpful article from The Washington Post by Sarah Kliff, "What would 'meaningful action' on gun control look like?" You can find that article here.]

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