This opinon was contributed by Terry Butler. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
I have found that the issue of gun violence in America is a very divisive one. This is not surprising given our nation's violent history, and I must admit I was warned beforehand by friends and others who have tried a reasonable approach to the issue that I would eventually be frustrated in any effort to facilitate a productive conversation on the matter. After a short and contentious interchange among myself and Mr. Stephen Mills and Mr. Marty Richman in which I perhaps clumsily attempted to start such a conversation, I saw the exchange had become one about the NRA and not about the problem of gun violence. I asked, in my opinion piece published in this space on 3/29/2018, what I think are important questions about various aspects of the problem in response to a letter from Mr. Richman. He answered only those questions which he saw as an attack on the NRA. Mr .Mills, in an earlier response took me to task for my seeming ignorance of the restrictions of existing gun laws. Both gentlemen made very good points and I learned something from each. But both also continued to address the issue of gun violence from their own very narrow viewpoint. One defending the NRA and the other defending his attack on the NRA. I responded in the same vein and it ended with a rather angry letter from Mr. Richman, and I now regret that response.
So I now ask a simpler and more pertinent question: Is there a middle path toward addressing the problem that leaves out the divisive politics we are all laboring under? Can we discuss workable solutions rather then extremes? It is obvious to me that not all gun owners are "right wing tin hat authoritarians", nor are all anti-gun advocates "left wing one world tree huggers". Most Americans are simply trying to pay their bills and keep afloat and have some leisure time to enjoy life a bit between workdays. We are basically law-abiding except on the fringes. By "fringes" I mean that on one hand we have an increasingly concreted underclass who resort to illegalities out of anger, desperation or just plain ignorance, and on the other we have an elite who are largely unaffected by laws ("above" the law) and have teams of lawyers to defend them if some eager beaver IRS or FBI agent jumps on some of their shadier dealings. So, I'm theorizing here, that we have a large middle bunch who pay their taxes without stealing to do so, who go to work so their families can have safe schools and streets, and who develop political affiliations often based on long-time family histories or in many cases on what they have learned in their own lives. Most Americans, I believe, could be said to be Center-Left or Center-Right and thus choose a voting stance as promoted by one or other of the two major parties we support. Both of these parties are at base as alike as two peas in a pod. Their main function is to serve business interests, mostly large corporations, though they pay lip service to "the backbone of America"--small business, and "the salt of the earth"--farmers and workers.
I'm saying that our parties now serve to divide the country more than unify it, and also that in my 76 years as an American under 13 presidents not one of those gentlemen has been one who stood strictly for the people. Some have done more for people, others less. And to my way of thinking this has to do with the way campaigns are funded. I for one knew that Obama would defeat McCain when it became a certainty that he was gaining more support from Wall Street than his opponent was--you don't have to read the polls or consult a fortune teller to understand elections if you follow the money. And strictly in my own estimation of Mr. Obama's presidency he failed his transformative possibilities because of this debt. That, and a Wall Street-beholden and GOP-dominated congress who did everything they could to thwart him. One of the great myths perpetrated by his enemies was that "he wants to take away our guns". But in reality he did nothing about them which was probably a very wise and perhaps life-saving decision for him.
We can all become aware of just how much the weapons manufacturers and manufacturers of ammunition contribute to politics by spending some time on Googling it. I did it and after a bit of search to narrow the plethora of info available to nationwide elections only I found these numbers; in the 2016 election cycle Republican candidates received $5,900,000, while Democrats received $106,000. This info and a further breakdown of the numbers can be found on the Politico website:
To continue the theme of my question: Do we as Americans want this kind of important public safety issue left up to financially compromised politicians? Is it not time to widen the discussion to bring the voice of the people into it and stop letting groups like NSSF (The Firearms Industry Trade Association), the NRA and the The Gun Owners of America, all organizations who both lobby congress with more with millions besides contributing millions to gun friendly politicians campaigns? These are only three sources for the many millions spent on promoting guns in our country, and the NRA is actually mild compared to some of them who see "global Deep State plots to take guns away from law abiding citizens".
There are solutions to the problem but they can't be accomplished without the political apparatus and a populace willing to make their opinions known. Yes, there are background checks, regulations of purchases, licensing of vendors laws etc. on the books. But they are ludicrously under-employed. Its a fact that there are crooks out there selling guns to other crooks without any oversight or impediment. Isn't it time we tasked our representatives to at least hold public discussions to find out what Middle Americans, both gun owning and gun hating, really want our gun laws to look like?
Isn't it time for a National Cooperative Association for people who hate gun violence and want it to stop?
Terry Butler, Hollister
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