As a Republican member of the Congress, I was compelled to abandon my political party over the gun issue in 1999. American children had been murdered in their school in Columbine and my party, the party that controlled the fix to gun violence, did nothing about it.
I listened to the debate on gun control in the United States House of Representatives in June of 1999 alongside Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), whose husband had been murdered and son wounded by a deranged gunman on the Long Island Railroad in 1993.
But iwas the unspeakable tragedy of Columbine, outside Denver, in April of 1999 that had sparked the intense debate on the House floor about what could be done to protect America's children, our children, our future. It could have been my child, or your child, so surely we would do something.
Then, however, the National Rifle Association (NRA) unleashed its powerful army of lobbyists and millions of dollars to make sure that we did not. I lost friends and supporters in my Long Island district when I became a Democrat, and I lost my reelection bid the next year.
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In the 19 years since then, an untold number of children and adults have suffered wanton destruction in their schools, their churches, their neighborhoods and communities and the National Rifle Association is still making sure nothing meaningful will be done to stop the violence.
After Sandy Hook, and Virginia Tech, and Las Vegas, some of us continued to hope that the spectacle of all those coffins would surely prompt the Congress to act. Even when gun violence wounded our own, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords badly wounded while meeting her Arizona constituents, Congressman Steve Scalise and others shot up during baseball practice, surely that would prompt Congress to act.
So why is the latest rampage with a gun any different? It is not, I’m sorry to say.
Very eloquent, impassioned teens are making an optimal case for action. And good for them. They have every right to expect our leaders to respond.
But, trust me. I was there. The politicians and their benefactor, the National Rifle Association, will still do nothing.
The forum at the White House, a town hall gathering on cable television, a march on Tallahassee and another expected in Washington—all of these are worthy efforts, but efforts the NRA itself might encourage, as ways to "blow off steam.”
In 1999, the Senate passed background checks for purchases at gun shows, but the House refused to act. That was all the families of murdered children then got from Congress.
And in 2018, Congress will I predict attempt to appear to be doing something by passing a few feel-good measures such as a ban on bump stocks, raising the age at which one can purchase certain firearms, or a cosmetic fix to background checks with the private assurance that the Senate will not pass a similar bill.
Then the U.S. Senate, particularly to offer political cover for Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, will pass its own cosmetic fix to appear in an election year to be doing something, anything—again, with the private assurance that the House of Representatives will not pass a similar bill.
Lawmakers will say they tried, and Donald Trump, who received $30 million from the NRA, will have earned his take.
That’s because as one of the Nation's wealthiest, most influential and most mobilized lobbies, the NRA is integral to any Republican politician's financial lifeblood, and that of some Democrats, too. Their death grip on our culture will not be easy to loosen, and if we’re to have any chance of doing so, we must not underestimate what we’re up against.