Opinion - A Real Disconnect

By Dan Schmitt | December 12, 2015 |

One day after 14 people were slaughtered in San Bernardino, the U.S. Senate voted on two gun related bills: one would have closed background check loopholes to make it harder for felons and the mentally ill to purchase guns and the other would have banned people on the terrorist watch list from buying guns. All Republican Senators voted “NO” on both bills. I think it’s accurate to say that if the bills had passed the Senate it wouldn’t have passed in the Republican controlled House.

There is a definite disconnect between the American public and elected Republicans working at the U.S. Capitol. Every day, ordinary Americans head for workplaces like the office building in San Bernardino where the mass shooting occurred. Or they head to schools like Sandy Hook Elementary where 20 children and six adults were killed. Or to a college in Roseburg where nine people were gunned down. And when we ordinary Americans aren’t at work we often gather for entertainment like at the theater in Aurora where 12 people were murdered or for prayer in places such as the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were nine members were shot.

There are two common denominators with these mass shooting: the use of assault weapons by the assailants and the inability of victims gathered in places where the shootings occur to escape. Large numbers of people in confined spaces make for easy targets.

I got to thinking about the Senate vote and something struck me: no recent mass shootings have occurred within the confines of our nation’s Capitol where our representatives conduct the business of our republic. Most likely, that’s because in 1828 Congress enacted legislation creating the U.S. Capitol police. Today, there are 1,637 Capitol police protecting the 435 House members and the 100 Senators. That’s a tad over three Capitol police persons for each member of Congress. With such protection, terrorists and other nut-jobs intent on inflicting massive harm to our representatives have little chance of getting inside the House or Senate chambers.

There’s another disconnect between how ordinary Americans view the gun violence issue and how Republican lawmakers act. Americans overwhelming support prohibiting the people on government terrorist watch lists from purchasing guns and tightening up background checks. Even a large number of the NRA rank and file support those steps. Republican lawmakers, however, continue supporting the “Merchants of Death,” also known as gun manufacturers, gun lobbyists and NRA executives.

So, given the two disconnects, what can be done? One option is the status quo. Another mass shooting will occur and the House and Senate Republicans will feign shock and call for a prayer and a moment of silence. Then, they’ll disregard what the American people want and continue snuggling up to the gun industry.

Another option is for Congress to provide the funding to fortify, with highly trained law enforcement, every school and workplace in our country like the Capitol is. This, of course, is highly unlikely given the Republicans are hell-bent on cutting the federal budget not increasing it.

So how about this option? It seems very hypocritical of Republican lawmakers working in the Capitol to be so very protected from mass shootings while everyday Americans live with this constant threat. There ought to be a law repealing the 1828 one. Get rid of the U.S. Capitol Police protection. No more bag checks, no more body checks, no more marksman on top of the building, no more law enforcement patrolling the Capitol grounds or inside. If the Republicans are really plying the work of the American people as they claim, they can at least work under the same conditions!

Who knows, Senator Cruz might even carry the legislation. Shortly after the San Bernardino massacre, he found it appropriate to play macho at a firing range. It’d be interesting to see how macho he really is going to work every day without the fortification of the Capitol police.

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Steve L said...

Well stated Dan. The sentiment is spot on to what I'm sure 95% of America (at least lucid Californians and those in educated states) wishes.

It's not about removing guns from law abiding citizens, never has been. It's about controlling gun access to the criminal and mentally imbalanced. The NRA will not allow ANY legislation that hinders gun sales to ANYONE due to the bizzare belief that it would be the first step to state or fed confiscation of all firearms.

Legislators need to be held accountable. Remove their protection and see how fast gun legislation passes.

As is the case usually, it's about the all mighty dollar and how much $$ value legislators place on human life.

Doc Bricker said...

It is sad why our politicians are so focused on the rhetoric of gun control legislation and preserving our right to bear arms. Now we can add one more societal "flavor of the day" to the growing list of litmus test issues which are being used to classify our current and future politicians.

While we ingest the latest political discourse on abortion rights, transgender rights, domestic spying, global warming, immigration rights, and now add gun rights-we are missing one important fact: These issues are actually more than litmus tests for our politicians to dance around-they are unfortunately the barometer on the health of our society. We don't need a weather satellite to see that our barometer is falling and there are gray clouds approaching over the horizon.

It is time for our leaders to address the deteriorating fabric of our society and examine the loosening 'glue' that binds us as a society. It is time for our leaders to de-politicize the rhetoric and address the root causes of mental health, lost hope and aspirations, income disparity, declining quality of life, and any other factors that can be traced to these violent outbursts. We have to find the symptons before we can talk about the cures. Only then, can we truly become what President Obama claims is our "American Exceptionalism".

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