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Gary Horton: Lobbyists are at the root of our violent culture

Posted: April 24, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 24, 2013 2:00 a.m.

After the Brothers Tsarnaev blew their lids and went on their Boston pressure-cooker bombing spree, it wasn’t surprising that sooner or later unregistered, illegally obtained guns and rifles would show up in the bloody mix.

Indeed, just days ago we learned that illegal weapons were used to kill the MIT security officer and wound the Boston policemen. Are you shocked to hear it?

And while the loss of civilians and police and uncounted limbs at Boston is terribly tragic, it is also true that since the mass murder of 26 little kids and teachers at Sandy Hook, more than 3,857 Americans have also been killed by guns, rifles, and assault weapons.

On April 15, the day the Boston bombings killed three souls, 11 other Americans were also killed by guns elsewhere in the country.

Indeed, half-baked, pressure-cooker attacks make for riveting front-page headlines, scaring the beejees out of Americans.

But what we reliably forget is that guns kill 10 times as many Americans every single day, day after day after day.

Factually, the Boston bombings were just a droplet in the bucket of blood America has been forced to endure by the proliferation of weapons in our cities.

Concurrent with hearing of the killings by backpack bombers, 88 percent of Americans also learned that the high-powered, targeted lobbying of the National Rifle Association had again thwarted their wishes regarding reasonable management of firearms.

A bipartisan Senate bill requiring gun background checks was defeated by a 54-46 vote. This despite national polls indicating 88 percent of Americans support mandatory checks for criminal and mental status for firearm purchases as a common-sense step toward making America at least a little bit safer than suffering the 30 murders a day we’re suffering now.

Mind you, the bill did not call for curtailment of assault rifles or limits on clip sizes, as every sane advanced country currently requires. No, America would still allow everyday folks to build their own personal paramilitary arsenals in their private bunkers.

This Senate bill would have simply required gun purchasers to submit to a short delay while a nominal background check is run to assuring against criminal records and mental instability.

No gun registry, no ban against hand-held weapons of mass destruction. Just a check to see if you’re law-abiding and sane.

The stinging thing is that had the Brothers Tsarnaev been required to submit to background checks, their prior FBI interaction would have likely triggered a flag stopping them from their gun purchase and perhaps alerting authorities to their bombing plans.

It is not a stretch to say the NRA’s fight against background checks is complicit in the death and mayhem against police and security officers in Boston.

So America got shot down again as the NRA carves another notch in its bloody gun stock. We’ve surely reached a tipping point in the decline of our national democracy when a group functioning as the public marketing arm of the gun industry effectively and routinely uses its political blackmail to subvert the overwhelming will of the people.

"Government by lobbyists" is what Congress has become, so it’s no surprise that so much of our national policy is disjointed and dysfunctional. The power of the lobbyist dollar is mightier than the ballot box.

Politicians know that powerful lobbies are loyal to their positions, not to particular candidates, so politicians had better get in step with the lobbyist influence or they’re soon be holding the door open for their replacement.

Our own congressman, Howard "Buck" Buck McKeon’s totally slavish submission to weapons manufactures might be one good local example.

You’ve only got one vote. General Dynamics has billions of bucks.

You’ve only got one vote.

Smith and Wesson and Lockheed and the Koch Brothers have you and me vastly outgunned and overpowered. We’ve got but one vote a piece, while the NRA has a virtual lobbyist A-bomb aimed at your representatives.

We see other nations with rational, functional agendas making strong progressive strides forward while we watch impotently, wishing we could follow suit. Oh, we used to be progressively functional ourselves, before our political process became poisoned by lobbyist influence.

But we’ve been tricked into selling Congress to the highest bidder, so who shouldn’t expect distorted, out-of-touch public policies aimed straight at the powerless citizens armed with just one measly vote.

Our wishes for a safe and progressive American society are simply outgunned by gun lobbies. And, after too many years of this battle, many voters are dazed and confused and suffering detachment and voter PTSD.

There’s no easy answer to this until voters become so outraged that they revolt against the current system at the ballot box, overthrowing all the politicians more loyal to lobbyists than citizens. Until that unlikely day, remember 3,587 Americans have been killed by guns since Sandy Hook.

But that was Tuesday’s count. Today’s count is likely 30 dead Americans higher. Feel like revolting yet?

Gary Horton is a Valencia resident. "Full Speed to Port!" appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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