Robert F. Jakubowicz: Politics likely to block gun reform once again

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PITTSFIELD — Many elements of the media, analysts, law enforcement officers and members of Congress are saying that the important question in the wake of the Las Vegas mass murder is why the gunman did it. But that is not the key question. Instead, it is whether the president and Congress will finally take meaningful action in response to the frequent incidents of mass murders by lone gunmen in this country in this century. Unfortunately, the answer is no, due to the shameful and utter political cowardice and political selfishness of the majority of our current elected leaders in Washington.

Our political system has become one in which most of the elected officials today consider their seats as belonging to them. Losing a reelection bid has become tantamount to a mortal, personal calamity.

As a former member of the state Legislature, I witnessed this attitude by incumbents who lost their seats as well as their colleagues who treated them as if they were at the loser's wake. Reelection has become the predominant objective of most of these elected officials and better still their having an unopposed reelection.

What makes this attitude of reelection at any cost despicable is that they know that something must be done about this domestic terror of senseless mass killings, but their fear of the electoral power of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its supporters keeps them from acting.

Silence of lambs

About 40 years ago, the NRA formed itself into a very strong, special interest group to promote unrestricted gun ownership. Over the years it has been extremely successful. According to The Center for Public Integrity, the NRA's greatest achievement has been " congressional silence on guns." And in recent years, a group of uncompromising, conservative voters, have taken over the Republican Party primary system to aid and abet that NRA achievement by bloc voting in those elections

Now President Trump has added his support as a strong NRA supporter. So do not expect any meaningful congressional action by the current GOP congressional majority in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy. Both the president and the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have already signaled this policy of silence by announcing that this is not the time for a debate about guns.

NRA representative Dana Laesch, following a statement by the American College of Physicians that gun violence is "a critical issue of public health." sarcastically tweeted that if semi-automatic weapons are banned than "pools, cars, cigarettes, alcohol, hands, feet & fists are next." This statement reflects the uncompromising views of the NRA. The organization has changed the gun culture in this country by fueling an unwarranted fear that no matter how insignificant the regulation of guns it would be the beginning of the eventual taking away of guns by the federal government.

This belief is the fundamental obstacle to reasonable gun regulation in this country. As a nation we have come a long way from the need of the personal possession of flintlocks for forcefully taking land from its native inhabitants, and militias to engage in a revolution, six-guns and Winchester rifles. We now have a standing military force and law enforcement agencies for the nation's security. We have stores to supply food. But the use of guns continues for sport in hunting animals, target practice and personal self-defense.

Feeding on fear

The Supreme Court in 2008 ruled that such gun use by law-aiding citizens is a constitutional right/ This court ruling should remove the fear of government taking guns away from law-abiding gun owners. But the NRA perpetuates that fear which only profits gun manufacturers because it makes more people buy more guns before any imagined government takeover occurs. The NRA plays the fear card to convince people that the only way to stop one of these shooters is for the public to arm itself by buying guns.

Guns are instruments designed to kill. They are dangerous and should be subject to reasonable federal government regulation. The Supreme Court made the point for such regulation in its 2009 decision. But there will be no much-needed comprehensive regulation until the current NRA-inspired gun culture of fear of a government gun takeover and fear of shooters prodding people buy guns for self-defense is dispelled. This is a daunting task that hopefully will eventually occur.     

But for now don't expect such action from the current political leaders except for the possibility of a token piece of legislation such a banning "bump stocks" which makes semi-automatic rifles fire rapidly simulating an automatic weapon. The NRA has expressed a willingness to regulate them — and Fox News has reported that there is a run on buying them.

Robert "Frank" Jakubowicz is a regular Eagle contributor.

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