If you need yet another example of how Washington politicians ignore voters in favor of special interests, take a look at the inability of Congress to stand up to the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The American public and the NRA are at odds on gun policy. In June 2017 a Quinnipiac University poll found that 94% of voters support background checks for all gun buyers – including 93% of Republicans. The Pew Research Center conducted polls in March and April of 2017 and found that 89% of Americans favor preventing the mentally ill from purchasing guns. The Pew polls also found that 83% favor barring gun purchases for people on no-fly or watch lists. These figures show that an overwhelming number of Democrats AND Republicans support these measures. The American people sent Congress a clear message on how they should proceed regarding gun legislation.
Compare that with the NRA which is one of the most powerful special interest groups in America. The NRA claims 5 million members which amount to only 2% of all American adults (18 years or older). Among gun owners, the vast majority (over 90%) are not members of the NRA and don’t always agree with their policies. The NRA is opposed to the above gun policies.
According to these figures, this shouldn’t be a contest at all. After all, 89% of the American public oppose allowing the mentally ill to purchase guns while the NRA supports it representing just 2% of the population. Eighty-nine percent versus 2 percent – should be a no brainer for Congress.
So what has Congress done to enact the will of the people?
They struck down an Obama era rule that required the Social Security Administration to add the names of mentally ill people on disability to the national background check database to prevent them from purchasing guns. These individuals suffer from schizophrenia, psychotic disorders, and other problems that render them unable to manage their financial affairs without help. This rule was enacted after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting where a mentally ill man used a legally purchased assault weapon to kill 20 first graders and 6 others. President Trump signed the measure in February.
How could this be? Eighty-nine percent of the American public support preventing the mentally ill from purchasing lethal weapons while only 2% are opposed. This is a policy that has bipartisan support. Yet, Congress ignores the 89% and does what the NRA wants. The 2% special interest wins yet again. Not just this time, but every time.
Why would Congress ignore their voters and cater to 2% of the population? On the surface it would appear to be political suicide. But the opposite is true.
The NRA is highly focused on their objective and highly activist. They vote in large numbers, write letters, sign petitions, march in political rallies, donate money, and are more engaged than the average citizen. Compare that to the average voter. According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, only 35 percent of citizens can name their Members of Congress. In 2010, only 10% of American’s had donated to a political campaign at any point in their lifetime. Less than 1% of Americans have donated $200 or more to a political campaign. In the 2016 Presidential election, only 60% of eligible voters showed up at the voting booth.
Politicians know that if they submit to the will of the NRA they will be rewarded with fat campaign contributions and a reliable re-election vote. If they challenge them, the NRA will work very hard to replace them with a more pliable candidate. The NRA will run negative ads against them. They will send out their activists to vote for the Republican challenger. When you consider that the main goal of any member of Congress is to stay in power, who would you want on your side? An organization with loads of money that will help you stay in your job or a bunch of voters that most likely won’t know your name, won’t donate money to your campaign, and may not even vote?
We need to ask ourselves, do we want a country where 2% of the people get to override the rest of us? Is that how our democracy should work?
Absolutely not! In order to take back our country from special interests, we need to follow the example of the special interests. We must work to elect politicians that will not cower to the powerful few including the NRA. We must donate to campaigns (even $10 goes a long way when enough people donate). We must be vocal and call our members of Congress often. We must write letters and march in political rallies. We must demand that our members of Congress represent US and not special interests.
By far, the most important thing we can do is vote. If Congress was confident that the 89% that support preventing the mentally ill from buying guns would consistently vote, they would stand up to the NRA every time. Let’s show the special interests that the American people will not be ignored. Stand up for America. Be Out Loud!