Responsibility initiative gives gun control advocates hope for much-needed level ground in Congress
In a statement made to USA Today on the second anniversary of the Tucson shooting that left six dead and 13 others wounded, including former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Giffords and husband Mark Kelly announced that they plan to counteract the political influence the National Rifle Association has over Washington with their Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative.
On its website, the initiative promises to “encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership by communicating directly with the constituents that elect them.” This initiative has the potential to level the playing field on the topic of gun violence, which would be a welcome change.
The Sunlight Foundation reports that the NRA spent more than $24 million on the 2012 election cycle, $16.8 million of which was spent through its political action committee, the remaining $7.5 million through its affiliated Institute for Legislative Action.
In contrast, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the most vocal advocates of gun control measures, was able to muster only $5,800. The group was started by former press secretary Jim Brady and his wife Sarah after Jim was left partially paralyzed by a shot to the head during the 1981 assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan.
The NRA doesn’t just outspend the Brady Campaign during election season. Through July 1 of last year, the NRA had spent $4.4 million to lobby Congress, while the Brady Campaign spent only $60,000.
To find real, tangible solutions to an issue as complex as gun violence, the forces in Washington cannot be slanted toward a group that opposes almost all forms of gun control.
In her statement to USA Today, Giffords said, “In response to a horrific series of shootings that has sown terror in our communities, victimized tens of thousands of Americans and left one of its own bleeding and near death in a Tucson parking lot, Congress has done something quite extraordinary — nothing at all.”
We have to stop doing nothing, and the Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative may be the force that inspires a change. The group raised $1.4 million on its first day alone, and the number has continued to climb toward the group’s goal of $20 million by the 2014 election season, a number that treasurer Steve Mostyn said he believes would allow gun control advocates to compete on a level playing field with the NRA.
A level playing field is even more important in light of President Barack Obama’s comprehensive plan to curb gun violence. Although the president can increase attention to mental health programs and research on gun violence, and can improve some areas of gun enforcement with executive orders alone, he needs the help of Congress to pass the rest of his plan. He aims to close gun show loopholes, ban “military style” assault weapons, limit high-capacity magazines and target gun-trafficking networks.
Congress should have the ability to pursue these options and make rational decisions without fearing the NRA. The Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative is a step in the right direction that will hopefully allow Congress to have an honest and constructive debate about gun violence instead of being silenced by the NRA’s large budget.
-Nathaniel Drake is a sophomore studying political science and communications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter via @WildcatOpinions