This past week we witnessed yet another senseless mass shooting in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Our nation grieves for all the victims of this terrible tragedy, as well as for their families, teachers and classmates.
We have allowed these horrific events to occur for way too long without demanding concrete efforts to prevent them. Enough is enough!
In April 1999, we were shocked when 12 students and a teacher were shot and killed at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. In just five months this year there have already been 27 school shootings. The next one could be at your child’s or grandchild’s school. They are all at-risk.
Since 2009, there have been 274 mass shootings in the United States, resulting in 1536 people shot and killed and 983 people shot and wounded. The next one could be in your shopping mall or movie theater. We are all at-risk and we must have solid solutions to this deadly epidemic now.
There are two things that have real power in American politics. One is money and the other is people. I wrote a whole book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, on this topic several years ago. (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.) Given the most recent deadly shootings in Texas and Buffalo, New York, this issue is even more relevant today.
In the wake of these tragic events, the roles that both money and people play in dealing with gun violence in our country needs to be made clear to all Americans.
First, how effective is money in influencing public policy on gun control? In my book, I wrote:
“Though 92 percent of Americans want universal background checks for people purchasing guns, our elected officials’ personal ambitions override the public interest and dictate their political actions.”
From 2000 to 2013, the gun lobby, which includes the National Rifle Association (NRA), the firearms industry, and the Gun Owners of America, has contributed a combined $81 million to congressional and presidential election campaigns to defeat gun control measures. The gun lobby’s investment paid off when the Republican Congress refused to renew the ban on assault weapons after it expired in 2004.
Back then, the U.S. senators who received the most campaign contributions from the gun lobby were Republicans like Roy Blunt (R-MO), who received $2.6 million from the NRA during his 2010 campaign, and Ron Johnson (R-WI), $1.2 million from the NRA.
It’s no different today. The top 10 Senate recipients of NRA contributions are all Republicans. Leading the pack is Mitt Romney (R-UT) with over $13 million. Roy Blunt is still up there at number 3 with over $4.5 million. Number 10 is Bill Cassidy (R-LA) with a still sizeable $2.8 million.
When it comes to gun control policy, Republican senators choose taking money from the gun lobby over protecting American lives.
So, what about we, the people’s effect on gun control policy? The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) is comprised of 47 national organizations working to reduce gun violence. Its coalition members include religious organizations, child welfare advocates, public health professionals, and social justice organizations. However, their noble efforts have not borne much fruit.
Since the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Congress has not passed a universal background check statute or any other meaningful legislation to deal with the issue of gun violence in our country.
How to get sensible gun control laws passed? We have to elect pro-gun control candidates and vote those gun lobby-dominated Republican senators out of office. While that will not be easy with all the campaign money they receive, the power of the people to force change can be formidable. Consider the Women’s movement and the Civil Rights movement.
According to the latest poll following the most recent Texas and Buffalo shootings, 65% of Americans support stricter gun control laws.
We must make gun control a top issue in this year’s elections. Republican senators like Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are vulnerable on this as well as the other hot-button issue of abortion rights. Open seats in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio are winnable by pro-gun control Democrats as well.
We need to protect our children as well as all Americans. The best way to do that now is to get involved in this year’s election campaigns. We must make sure that the great majority of Americans who support gun control vote in November. It’s up to all of us to make that happen.
Bruce Berlin, J.D.
A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.
 Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, p. 24 (Santa Fe, NM: Our Time Books, 2016)
 Ibid, p. 23
 Ibid, pp. 23-24
 Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, p. 23