Senators fail to hear Americans’ voice on the new gun bill

Shaefer Bagwell argues that the United States senators failed to represent America’s voice by rejecting the latest gun bill.

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John Buchanan/THE CHIMES

Shaefer Bagwell, Writer

Last week, the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have expanded background checks for individuals who attempt to purchase firearms. Despite bipartisan support, the lobbying of the parents of the Newtown victims and the intense effort of the Obama administration, the bill failed to pass in the Senate. 

The point of this piece is not to debate the merits of gun control. This is not a conversation about whether or not people should have to wait three days and endure a background check before purchasing a weapon.

I want to talk about why this bill failed. I want to talk about how a bill that had 92 percent support among the citizens of this country failed in the body that is supposed to represent us.

Special interest groups have become the true constituents of our elected officials. In this case, it was the NRA, but you can substitute any lobby group that’s related to any issue in particular and you’ll find the same results. If an interest group has large enough coffers and a book full of enough IOUs, they can promote or kill any bill they choose. Senators and congressmen have become so beholden to the whims of the lobbyists and corporations that fill their campaign war-chests that they have forgotten their true obligation to the people that elected them.

Cowardice has become the watchword of the legislative body. Gone are the days where a senator or congressman would take a stand at the risk of his or her job. Where were the senators who truly believed in background checks? Where were the senators whose constituents favored the bill two-to-one? They hid behind copouts, like Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona — who incidentally is close personal friends with Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, a victim of violent gun crime. Senator Flake said that while he supported the bill, he thought it “encroached into private sales too much.” Senator Flake, and others like him, had been lobbied hard by people like Vice President Joe Biden and Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, to vote for the bill. But when the rubber hit the road, these senators abandoned their constituents and their friends and bowed to the whims of the special interest groups.

When we live in an age where the NRA, or any lobby, can threaten to fund a primary challenger in your next race and thereby successfully ensure that you vote the way they want you to, something has gone horrifically wrong in our democratic process. Elected officials should be beholden to their constituents, and their constituents only.

For a moment, forget the partisan issue of gun control, and think of whether or not you, as an American voter, taxpayer and citizen, are comfortable with having someone work for you who doesn’t listen to you. In the workplace, if your employee blatantly ignored your wishes, you would fire him or her. Senators and congressmen work for us. When they stop listening, it’s time to fire them.

Young Americans, especially those in the Church, need to be more cognizant of the way that our elected officials are acting, even in the case of laws that aren’t as hot-button or sexy as gun control. We need to pay attention, and when our representatives start to listen to the wrong people, we need to fire them.

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