Power to the People

Photo credit: Huffington Post

On the six-month anniversary of the senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, the United States Congress has still failed to pass any gun safety legislation. Even though President Obama signed more than a few executive actions to curb gun violence, and families and friends of the Newtown survivors have lobbied Congress, and billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political action committee targeted candidates and elected officials, grassroots efforts to convince Congress to pass gun safety legislation have fallen on deaf ears.

It is undisputed that dollars are filling to the coffers of gun and ammunition manufacturers. With other top firearms companies, Smith & Wesson was the latest to report record quarterly profit gains. Its quarterly revenue was $179 million, up about 38 percent from the year-earlier period. For the first quarter of 2013, Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. (NYSE: RGR), reported that its earnings increased 53% from the first quarter of 2012, driven by a 39% growth in sales. And, early lobbying reports for the first quarter of 2013 show the firearms industry keeps on aiming for profits by lobbying.

Many think that saving lives, keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, and supporting law enforcement are noble goals. Unfortunately, noble goals fall by the wayside when millions; perhaps billions, of dollars are at sake. Dollars are at the heart of the gun safety discussion; not the premise of protecting Second Amendment rights. The Constitution of the United States provides:

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”.

This lone sentence, with a couple of questionable dependent clauses, has created considerable debate regarding the Second Amendment's intended scope. The “individual rights” theorists interpret the Amendment's phrase "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms" as restricting legislative bodies from prohibiting firearm possession. Conversely, “collective rights” theorists rely on the prefatory language of the Amendment, "a well regulated Militia" to argue that the Framers of the Constitution intended to restrict Congress from legislating away a state's right to self-defense; that citizens do not have an individual right to possess guns; and that local, state, and federal legislative bodies therefore possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right. With the Supreme Court of the United States sharply divided ideologically on a number of issues, it is highly unlikely that the Second Amendment debate will end in favor of either theory in the near future.

Rather than seek support for gun safety from the Supreme Court or Congress, whose approval rating is at an all time low, perhaps gun safety proponents can raise their voices outside the beltway. If you are part of the 90 percent of Americas who support gun background checks, then also consider:

• Cancelling your membership in the National Rifle Association (NRA), Guns Owners of America (GOA), and organizations with a similar mission and purpose, if their legislative platform is not aligned with your idea of what constitutes reasonable gun safety;

• Using your NRA or GOA membership refund to support organizations with legislative agendas that advocate for responsible gun use;

• Reviewing your stock portfolio and divesting your interests in ammunition and gun manufacturing companies with business goals that are counter to rational gun safety proposals;

• Voicing shareholder support for ammunition and gun manufacturers that promote gun safety, as well as support for their corporate officers who champion responsible gun use; and

• Supporting law enforcement initiatives that impact your community. Several manufacturers have already agreed to not sell firearms to law enforcement agencies in states that enacted responsible gun safety legislation.

As Congress prepares to recess for Independence Day, the Summer, and Columbus Day, remind your elected officials that gun safety legislation is a noble task and smart politics. And like a fool and his money which are soon departed, a gun in the wrong hands can lead to your early departure.