March and vote for our lives
Gary Caruso | Friday, March 23, 2018
Tomorrow an anticipated half-million “March for Our Lives” and “Never Again” activists will crowd the streets of our nation’s capital in a call for safe school standards and sensible gun control legislation — in direct opposition to the politically powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), which boasts a backing of 5 million members. The marchers’ anger against the NRA’s stranglehold on our political leaders is their initial step in what can be the first salvo against the NRA’s staunch stand and cutesy rhetorical analysis against a scintilla of change through any gun legislation. It may be a personal call for safety within our society, but it must also be a nationwide movement for reasonable action by our governmental officials.
The efforts begun by high school student organizers to change the political landscape is a story of rallying the “Vote for Our Lives” force to defeat the NRA at the ballot box. Difficult as it may seem now, the demonstrators this weekend can ultimately defeat those politicians (mostly Republicans who as a party universally support the NRA lock, stock and barrel) who stifle gun control changes. Ultimately, they can also thwart the reelection of President Trump in 2020.
This effort is one supported by facts the NRA could never counter in places like Australia. This is not the story of a good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun, because usually the bad guy has already shot good guys or killed himself before the gun-toting good guy arrives. Studies have shown that controls on guns directly influence a decline in deaths.
In 1996 after the Port Arthur Massacre, Australia instituted a gun buyback program while banning certain semi-automatic, self-loading rifles and shotguns. They imposed stricter licensing and registration requirements after a 28-year-old man, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, killed 35 people and injured 18 others. A 2014 study averaged the seven years prior to the law (1989-1995), with seven years after the buyback was fully implemented (1998-2004). Homicide rates by firearms decreased by 57 percent. The average annual firearm suicide death rate fell from 2.6 to 1.1 per 100,000. No gun massacres of four or more victims occurred during the 14 years after the law as opposed to 13 massacres resulting in 100 deaths that occurred during the 18 years before the law. Overall, the drop in firearm deaths was largest among the type of firearm regulated.
This movement is the story of citizens demanding reasonable protections against mass murder caused by assault rifles, extended magazine cartridges and modifications that are designed only to achieve a quick destruction of a target. This is not the story of prohibiting the average citizen from protecting a home from an oppressive government that may one day sweep door-to-door to confiscate firearms and violate our constitutional rights. Furthermore, this campaign is a story of changing the political agenda nationwide by changing the party control of governments on all levels. This is not the story of a single-issue effort to only support gun-control candidates. In a pro-gun district, for example, electing an NRA-supported Democrat is an assurance that we are closer to considering reasonable regulations rather than a continuing a GOP agenda of doing nothing.
Politics is not a pure, zero-sum game of absolute either/or issues. One merely needs to note that whenever the GOP controls a legislature either on the state or national level, gun regulations of any type are almost never considered in committee, let alone presented for a legislative body vote. The Florida state legislature is the rare example of shock-induced legislative movement only as a reaction to the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
This new surgical political assault upon the NRA is a story of winning the ballot box vote battle by winning the debate. This is not the story of 5 million invincible NRA members strangling our political system. Many card-carrying NRA members disagree with their organization’s leadership strategy that opposes any change to any gun regulation proposal, especially reasonable limits on magazine cartridges and uber-powerful assault weapons. In the spirit of self-disclosure, this writer is a gun owner who has been presented with NRA certificates. It is laughable to me how well the NRA has scared others into thinking that any regulation is the first step to tyranny and confiscation of all firearms in violation of the Second Amendment.
“Never Again” allies can potentially develop sufficient voter turnout to overtake the NRA’s money-saturated grip on the political process. According to the 2017 American Census statistics by age group, those aged 15 years (eligible to vote in the presidential election of 2020) to 19 years old totaled 21 million, averaging 4,120,000 per age group. Widely energized, surgically and strategic-thinking “March for Our Lives” voters, regardless of how universally dispersed nationwide, may guarantee a Trump defeat against a credible opponent.
The mathematical formulations to win congressional and state legislative seats is a more complicated equation, but not impossible to change the political agenda on many legislative levels. Should “March for Our Lives” advocates vote for their lives in each of the next four election cycles, they will have accomplished their 1,000-mile journey with tomorrow’s single step.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.