by Molly Ivins
come to you today, two days after what would have been her seventh birthday." -- Veronica McQueen, mother of the girl who was shot to death by a 6-year-old classmate in Michigan this February, addressing Million Mom Marchers.
Slogan of the march: Enough Is Enough.
Legislative goals of the marchers:
The 30,000 gun deaths a year in this country are not a consequence of our lack of common sense; they are a failure of our political system. The system does not work on this (and most other issues) -- and not because the anti-gun-control forces are stronger than the pro-gun-control forces, or because the anti-control people are more passionate about the issue, or because they are single-issue voters. It doesn't work because of money.
From 1989 to 1999, the National Rifle Association contributed $8.4 million to congressional candidates and national party committees, including soft and PAC money, according to Common Cause. The combined campaign-contribution money of Handgun Control Inc., Texans Against Gun Violence and the few other anti-gun groups is a relative joke.
So? If enough people feel strongly enough about gun control, shouldn't they go out and raise more money than the NRA and buy the lawmakers for our side? No.
Why should we have to outbid a minority for control of, or even a response from, our own political system? If the system doesn't work for the majority of Americans, what good is it?
And I submit to you that at this point it is no longer working for most of us. Instead, our lawmakers -- the ones we voted for -- consistently respond to the interests of their major campaign contributors rather than to the interests of most Americans.
Behold the wondrous conversion of our governor, George Dubya Bush, who was elected by the NRA. In 1994, he promised that, unlike Ann Richards, he would sign the concealed handgun law, making it legal to pack a rod almost anywhere. The NRA went all-out for Bush. Richards' veto of the bill cost her a crucial slice of the good-ol'-boy vote. Bush was surrounded by NRA officials when he signed the law.
Frankly, the NRA gets nuttier by the day: Its executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, recently claimed that President Clinton, who favors gun control, is "willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda."
According to a 1999 report by the Violence Policy Center, since the Texas concealed handgun bill passed, 2,713 licensees have been arrested for crimes ranging from DWI to murder.
Bush says he supports stronger enforcement of existing gun laws. But according to The Wall Street Journal, in Texas almost 800 convicted felons have been denied a license to carry guns but have not been prosecuted for violating state and federal possession laws.
Bush did not support legislation to close the gun-show loophole, or the two bills last session to require child safety locks.
Bush's website says that he "supports the current ban on automatic weapons." As Handgun Control notes, there has been a ban on automatic weapons since the 1930s. The question is whether Bush would reauthorize the 1994 federal ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, which sunsets in 2004.
But two days before the Million Mom March, Bush had a conversion experience and announced that all Texans will henceforth be given a free trigger lock, paid for by the governor's office. Gee, what a gun-control advocate. I'm sorry to make this sound like a partisan issue by exposing Bush's record, but it is a political issue.
According to Handgun Control, for every child killed with a gun, four are wounded. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of firearms death of children 14 years old and under is nearly 12 times higher in the United States than in 25 other industrialized nations combined. The people in those countries are not more civilized than we are -- they just don't have easy access to guns.
Again according to Handgun Control, more than 6,000 students were expelled in 1996-97 for bringing handguns to school. In 1996, more than 1,300 children age 10 to 19 committed suicide with firearms.
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, since the shootings at Columbine High School, 4,001 people have died because of firearms in 100 U.S. cities. Because of the NRA, there is still a gun-show loophole in federal law that doesn't require all sales to be subject to a background check of criminal or mental histories. The Columbine shooters used four guns purchased at gun shows, three of them bought by an 18-year-old.
Enough is Enough.
May 16, 2000 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
All Rights Reserved.
Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.