Another mass shooting occurred here in the United States yesterday. It took place at the Inland Regional Center, an agency that helps mentally challenged and special needs people, in San Bernardino, California, resulting in fourteen dead and seventeen injured. Here's how one report on the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) covered the story:
Just another day in the United States of America. How saddening, maddeningly, frustratingly true.
Mass shootings are not just becoming more prevalent; they are becoming routine. When something terrible becomes routine, not only is the time to do something present, but the reason is present as well. And yet, what we here in the U.S. get is rhetoric, not reason. Today's cover of The New York Daily Post newspaper is a provocative one.
I would suspect that right-wingers and Christian fundamentalists find this as an attack on God/religion/faith, etc. In fact, it is nothing of the kind. The word "prayers" is highlighted in the boxes as a wake-up call, not an attack on God, or religion, or faith. While politicians of their thoughts and prayers for the victims, they do nothing to be reasonable and change things for the better. All the while, the number of victims of mass shootings continues to climb. This year alone, just from January 1st to December 2nd, there have been 355 mass shootings in this country. 355! More mass shootings than number of days in this year that have passed. This shooting in San Bernardino, California, is the largest mass shootings since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting three years ago, which resulted in nearly thirty deaths.
As the Daily News' cover illuminates, prayers do not change laws and implement them; God does not change laws and implement them ... members of Congress do. While it is reasonable, and well past time, to take action, what we get is rhetoric. We get people screaming about their guns being taken away from them. We get gun legislation, whenever it comes up, that repeatedly goes nowhere. We gun certain bans left to expire. Are all, or at least the vast majority, of Congress so heartless as to not care one bit about human life at all? I doubt it, but I do, however, have a theory why, legislatively, things have been the way they are:
Too many politicians in bed with the National Rifle Association (NRA), taking contributions from it, and not wanting to bite a hand that feeds them.
The NRA has been beating the war drums of Watch out! They're coming for your guns! for years. The NRA's response to gun violence in this country has become to increase the number of guns in America. When they contribute to politicians, politicians beat the same drums and call for the same increase in weaponry. Why not? They're not going to take the NRA's money and not do its bidding ... and the NRA will not give them any money if they refuse.
Please read the following:
-- A 2012 report from BusinessInsider.com that shows who gets the most money from the NRA, including a breakdown of contributions in general terms of overall members of Congress.
-- A report from OpenSecrets.org that lists the biggest recipients of NRA dollars for last year's election cycle, including names of committees and individuals in Congress.
-- A report from NYDailyNews.com from October regarding contributions and election results, highlighting two examples of former Georgia Representative John Barrow and current West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. It also lists the NRA's annual contribution amounts from 1990-2014.
-- A 2013 article from Care2.com, a social networking site that promotes online petitions and taking social action, that shows the result of a study done by the British newspaper The Guardian about the percentage of U.S. Senators who stopped gun control legislation in Congress and were paid by the NRA. The percentage may just astound you.
After being formed in the late nineteenth century, the NRA was involved in the passage of the National Firearms Act in 1934, the first piece of gun legislation in the United States. In fact, during the congressional hearings reading the Act, then-NRA president Karl Frederick made the following statements during his testimony:
"I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons."
seldom carry one."
"I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting
"I think it should be sharply restricted and only under
My, how times have changed!
All the way until the mid-1970's, the Association's focus was sportsmen. It was at that time, the Association's legislative lobbying body, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) was formed, and was later instrumental in lobbying Congress to get the Firearm Owners Protection Act passed in 1986. Its work continued in the area of reducing federal powers regarding firearms. Famed actor Charlton Heston, who had, years earlier, supported gun legislation, served as NRA president from 1998-2003, bringing wider attention to the organization and its goals.
Wayne LaPierre has served as the NRA's Executive Vice-President since 1991, a capacity in which he continues to serve, and has been its most noted spokesperson in recent years. He has functioned as a clarion bell for the latest NRA strategy: We need more and more and more guns! In its nearly 145-year history, the NRA has gone from its initial purpose of "[promoting and encouraging] rifle shooting on a scientific basis" to paying off members of Congress to do nothing to help to greatly reduce mass shootings. We are left with rhetoric supporting the latter goal of the NRA. Reason begs for something substantial to be done to counter it.
How times have changed, indeed.