The renewed national debate over gun control in the wake of the high school shooting last week in Parkland, Fla., has a different feel this time around.
The arguments for and against remain the same. But prominent GOP politicians and President Donald Trump are actually talking about some modest gun control proposals, such as raising the legal age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21 and limited strengthening of background check laws.
People also seem intent on holding their elected officials accountable in ways we haven’t seen recently. In Florida, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he now is open to raising age limits for long-gun purchases — the day after he was confronted at a CNN town hall by Parkland students and parents over his pro-gun votes and support from the National Rifle Association, according to the Associated Press.
We remain skeptical that any substantive change will occur. Trump has no choice but to appear willing to listen, given the horrible optics of his weekend spent tweeting about the Russia investigation from his Mar-A-Lago resort, only 40 miles away from the scene of the Parkland carnage. The Trump who stressed the importance of mental health and school safety improvements is the same Trump who signed a resolution last year blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.
In fairness to Trump, he is only the latest in a long line of presidents who have failed to lead on this issue. He and the rest of the GOP will eventually acquiesce again to their overlords at the NRA, whose leader, Wayne LaPierre, said Thursday that gun control advocates “hate individual freedom.”
Well, we don’t believe “individual freedom” includes the right to mow down 17 students and teachers in their school, or to massacre 58 innocent concertgoers from a hotel window. For real change to occur, responsible gun owners who profess to love America will have to agree that not all Americans are capable of responsibly bearing arms.
We’re not suggesting the repeal of the Second Amendment or taking guns away from law-abiding citizens. The Daily Astorian’s editorial board includes gun owners — a lifelong NRA member, a former Army infantry captain and an ex-Marine. They are aghast at what the NRA has become over the years and its refusal to compromise on common-sense protections for our fellow citizens.
Much has been written over the past week about the $30 million the NRA donated to the Trump campaign, and the hundreds of millions more pumped into the coffers of politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Less-often mentioned, though, is that candidates are required to kiss the NRA’s ring when running for office. They are asked to fill out detailed questionnaires stating their positions on the NRA’s platform. Should they fail the test or refuse to bend the knee, rest assured that the organization will underwrite their opponents’ campaigns and mobilize an army of single-issue zealots to punish their heresy.
Politicians have everything to gain and nothing to lose by going along, as there isn’t a comparable ruthlessless among the gun control lobby.
One prominent GOP donor who realizes this is Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida real estate developer who was a leading fundraiser for George W. Bush’s campaigns. He will seek to marshal support among other Republican political donors for a renewed assault weapons ban, according to the New York Times.
“I will not write another check unless they all support a ban on assault weapons,” he wrote in an email to half a dozen Republican leaders, including Jeb Bush and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida. “Enough is enough!”
Voters who support gun control should take the same cue. Turn those coveted “A” and “B” grades from the NRA into an albatross around politicians’ necks, and the “F” into a badge of honor. Register to vote and then actually cast a ballot. Low election turnouts historically favor well-organized single-issue constituencies, such as the NRA.
Whether you love or hate the NRA, it is extremely successful at what it does. No level of outrage will come to anything if it is allowed to continue its stranglehold on our democracy. Adopting its tactics would be good place to start.