An inconvenient truth-Minnesotans and the country want background checks

inconvenientThere is an inconvenient truth about guns and elected leaders. The burden of lack of common sense gun laws is borne by the victims and survivors and their families and friends. It is borne by our communities and our children. It is inconvenient to bury a loved one whose life was taken suddenly and violently from senseless gun violence.

Though the Minnesota legislature has turned down many opportunities to pass a law requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales, Minnesotans have said consistently that they want this law. A new poll by the Star Tribune showed 82% support for such a law. And yes, even gun owners want this to happen. The usual is the case in this poll:

That’s according to a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, which found 82-percent support for criminal background checks on all gun sales including in private transactions and at gun shows. The overwhelming majority support extends across gender, income and political party lines, and to every part of the state, with even 78 percent of residents outside the Twin Cities expressing support.

Whether such laws would actually reduce mass shootings produced far less certainty. Only 15 percent felt it would help “a lot,” while 45 percent expected it to help “not much” or “not at all.” Those results also split much more along gender and party lines, with a majority of both men and Republicans thinking it would make little or no difference. Women and Democrats were more likely to think it would.

Men and Republicans. Hmm. Who is mostly in charge of the Minnesota legislature? Yup.

Whether or not Brady background checks on all gun sales would stop mass shootings seems open to debate. And background checks will not, of course, stop all shootings. But a one woman polled said, “How can it hurt?” Indeed. Why we don’t at least try is the question that needs to be asked. The fact that we don’t tells us who is in control and it’s not the majority of Minnesotans. It is time for our leaders to bear the burden of lack of action and do the right thing.

It’s significant to note that even rural Minnesotans want Brady background checks. The comment from one of the gun owners polled was consistent with those who don’t want background checks for fear that they can’t sell a gun to their brother without doing a background check. One thing to consider is that we have to hope that the person selling is not a domestic abuser who got his/her gun without a background check from another private seller. This is one way that guns get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. How often are relatives involved in providing guns to others? That is a question that should be asked and answered. But further, most background check laws exempt those who buy from and sell to close relatives. But let’s hope that those who do this make darned sure the relative is a responsible gun owner who doesn’t intend harm to others.

So this poll is not a surprise. But it must be a surprise to our legislators that their constituents want them to do the right thing. Or is it? Many of them turn their backs on common sense and vote with the corporate gun lobby instead. I believe they understand that they could do the right thing but they are afraid to stand up to the din of the corporate gun lobbyists who park themselves in their offices. This is not acceptable any more. The gun issue is one of the main issues of the Presidential election and should be one of the main issues for down ballot races as well.

We need to make it an issue. It is up to us to ask our elected officials if they will vote with the majority of their constituents and pass laws that will keep us safer from shootings. There is no reason not to vote in favor of a law that could save lives.

And speaking of polls, Presidential candidate Donald Trump has claimed that his polling shows strong enough support for him that he could step outside on 5th Avenue and shoot someone and no one would care. Really Donald Trump? This kind of rhetoric fans the flames of violent solutions and the gun lobby’s mantra that guns make us all safer and that everyone should carry one. And yes, we would care if you actually shot someone on the streets of New York City even though some of your supporters in the room where you made that statement laughed. Did they laugh because they didn’t dare not? Did they laugh because they were nervous about what you just said? Did they laugh because they actually believed that you could shoot someone and get away with it because you are Donald Trump and they think you should be the leader of the free world? Just imagine this rhetoric coming from the President of the United States.

This kind of offensive rhetoric is an example of how far politicians will go to gain the favor of a small minority of Americans who resist all efforts to keep our communities safe from gun violence. The NRA’s numbers show an increasing drop in their claimed membership according to this article from The Trace:

The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) New York state financial disclosure forms for 2014 are now online, and like past years’ tax filings, the documents provide a rare glimpse at the organization’s inner machinery. The group’s total revenues fell from more than $347 million in 2013 to roughly $310 million. Contributing to the decline was a drop in income collected from its members. Revenue from annual dues fell from $175 million to $128 million in 2014, a drop of 27 percent.

The precise size of NRA’s membership — the core of the group’s perceived political muscle — has long been a mystery. In January 2013, Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre boasted before Congress that he served 4.5 million members. Speaking at an NRA convention a few months later, he upped that figure to 5 million. On January 5, in a statement responding to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on guns, the group described itself as “more than 5 million members strong.”

But the truth of those numbers is a matter of debate — the NRA has never allowed an outside party to authenticate its membership, and independent estimates predict a much smaller number. Circulation audits of American Rifleman and other NRA-published magazines that are sent to every member come in at around 3 million. One former board membertold the Washington Post in 1998 that when the NRA counts its size, it includes many deceased lifetime members.

I have written about this before. I know people who have dropped their memberships. I know people who get cards from the NRA enrolling them in their membership. One of my friends is a lifetime member of the NRA because her father bought her a membership when she was a child. She does own a gun but she is working hard alongside gun violence prevention groups in Minnesota to pass reasonable laws. I have a friend who likes to shoot guns at a local gun club. In order to join this club, he has to also join the NRA. He does not believe in what the NRA does and supports my efforts to pass common sense gun laws.

The inconvenient truth is that most Americans want their leaders to pass stronger gun laws and enforce the laws we have. This has been consistently shown in national and state polling for many years now. Even gun owners want reasonable gun laws.

So what are we waiting for? We are waiting for our leaders to get out from under the thumb of what was once a more powerful gun lobby. They are not your father’s or grandfather’s gun safety organizations any more. They are in existence to protect their own perceived power and the profits of the gun industry it represents.

The gun lobby doesn’t want us to know how easy it is for prohibited people to get access to guns. They don’t want us to know how easy it is for kids and teens to access the guns that are used in “accidental” shootings and suicides. 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are due to suicide. In states that have required background checks on all gun sales, suicides have decreased as have domestic shootings. The proof is in the numbers and the inconvenient truth.

They don’t want us to know that American service members are shooting themselves on a regular basis. They don’t want us to talk about how easy it is to get a gun on internet sites. They don’t want us to know about the 89 Americans who die every day from gunshot injuries.

This is an inconvenient truth. But the public is way ahead of their leaders. It’s time for our leaders to catch up to reality and stop being afraid of the bully in the room. It’s time for us all to raise our collective voices and demand that something be done. That time is coming in Minnesota and all over our country where the majority has had #Enough.