After the most recent mass shooting–at Umpqua Community College in Oregon–President Obama urged Americans to look into where their Congressional representatives stand on gun-control legislation. With surveys showing that most Americans support common-sense gun laws–including universal background checks–you have to wonder if Congressional representatives’ attitudes coincide with prevailing public opinion. The following article, originally posted just after the Sandy Hook mass shooting in 2013, offers many still-relevant insights into public opinion and Congressional attitudes toward guns…
It’s been just over two months since twenty children and six adults were brutally gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then thirty-three people have died in gun violence every single day across this country. Tragically, it’s too late to save those 2,145 mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and friends.
The question is are we going to save the next 2,145 or are we going to pretend that there’s nothing to be done?
Contrary to the rantings of the NRA and right-wing media, the majority of us do not share their claim that the unfettered right to bear arms trumps the rest of our rights. For a majority of us, unregulated gun ownership takes a backseat to our right to safety, the safety of our children, and the right to live in our homes, walk our streets, and interact in public places without fear of harm.
The truth is that public debate over what experts agree is the most effective method to decrease the killing—universal background checks—is settled. The problem is that our elected representatives haven’t gotten the message.
Recent polls tell a lopsided story
According to Politifact.com, the latest Quinnipiac University poll in January/February showed that 92% of all of us support background checks for all gun owners. Among those in households with a gun on the premises, 91% of us support universal background checks.
The Pew Research poll in January concurred: 85% of non–gun-owning Americans and 85% of gun owners favor requiring private gun sales and sales of guns at gun shows to be subject to background checks.
Other polls drawing the same conclusions keep rolling in. The CBS News/New York Times poll in January concluded that 92% of all Americans and 85% of those living in households (yes, your eyes aren’t failing you!) with an NRA member support universal background checks.
With poll numbers like these, on the one hand, and overwhelming Republican opposition to universal background checks, on the other, surely the only conclusion to be drawn is that we, the people, have lost our ability to influence our elected officials. And when our elected representatives ignore the will of the people—as they surely are right now—then we are well on the way to losing the democratic compact as well.
For those old enough to remember, there used to be a public-service announcement that asked, “It’s 10:00. Do you know where your children are?” It’s time to rephrase the question. “Thirty-three precious lives are snuffed out by guns every day. Do you know where your representatives stand?”
Where does your representative stand?
The staff at The Daily Beast has decided to help us answer that question. By tallying the statements, voting records, ratings from the NRA and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, as well as reports of campaign contributions by the gun lobby for every member of Congress, The Daily Beast staff has assessed the likely votes of your elected officials on gun legislation. They call their graphic “This is Your Representative on Guns.”
According to their tally, 287 senators and representatives oppose gun reform. One hundred and eighty-eight support reform. Thirty-six members have an unclear position, and twenty could be considered swing votes.
Click here, and take a look at the list. You’ll find out whether your representatives are working for you on this issue. And if you find they are not, then search your conscience and ask yourself these two questions: Do I care that thirty-three people will be killed today? And if I do care, can I not find the time to make a call, write an e-mail, or compose a short letter to remind my representatives that it is their solemn duty to protect and defend us—the people—and not the interests of the gun lobby.