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Editorial: With gun control, it's power politics, more than reason, that wins

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Posted on March 15, 2018 |
By Angelo Lynn



The lessons to be learned from the 3,000 student-led marches around the country this Wednesday protesting gun violence are many, but can be boiled down to a single challenge: Will today’s angst and motivation for change among students and gun-control advocates outlast the forces that champion gun rights to the extreme degree this country allows?

Don’t be too sure change is coming. If you are, you’re likely to be disappointed.

Rather, approach the issue with eyes wide open and understand one thing: the issue will not be won by those espousing the most reasonable argument, but rather by those who best employ power politics.

Put aside, then, yesterday’s glory when the news around the country championed the momentum gained by gun-control advocates. That news will be dimmer tomorrow, and dimmer still the day after.

The NRA and its allies know this. They’ve been there before: Sandy Hook Elementary, 2012, where the death toll was 27 with two wounded; Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in 1999, when 15 students were killed and 24 wounded; the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 when 32 were killed and 17 wounded; the Umpqua Community College shooting in 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon, where eight students and a teacher were killed and nine wounded.

To the NRA and ardent gun proliferation activists, the killings in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and teachers were killed and 14 wounded at the Stoneman Douglas High School, is just another incident that forces them to push aside their moral values, press the flesh with legislators, and wrongly advocate that unrestricted access to guns in our society is the price we must pay for adhering to the Second Amendment.

That happened right here, this week.

While students in Vermont were planning their student marches this Wednesday, hundreds of gun-rights activists dressed in camouflage and sporting orange vest or hats (see photo and story on March 13, VtDigger.org) were lobbying legislators this Tuesday in the Capitol’s cafeteria in Montpelier. They were not staging public rallies to convince the community at large that their position is for the common good. Not at all. Rather, they were face-to-face with legislators warning them that if they did place restrictions on gun-rights, they would be hell to pay; they would rally their fellow gun-rights supporters and vote the traitors out of office.

Think about that: While thousands of students were struggling to find the words to express their real fears and worries about their safety — words that tugged at our hearts as parents and grandparents, friends and neighbors — gun owners in Vermont and across the nation were turning a blind eye to those students and telling legislators that their need to unrestricted access to military-style assault weapons was more important than students’ safety; that universal background checks were too great an inconvenience to them, regardless if it might prevent a mass shooting; that gun accessories that make standard rifles into rapid-fire weapons are a gun-owner’s right to buy without restriction, regardless of the risk posed to students at school, or any other mass gathering.

As unreasonable as those positions are, to beat the gun-control advocates will have to muster a grassroots, political activism that wields even greater political power. Students can help lead the way, but first they must grasp that explaining why gun control makes more sense than unrestricted gun proliferation is a moot point.

Everyone knows it makes no sense to provide violent people with easy access to military-style assault weapons. We all know that allowing emotionally unstable people to buy guns without background checks is foolish in the extreme. We all know that providing easy access to high capacity ammunition magazines enables murderers to kill high numbers of people all too quickly. That’s common sense and it’s why the gun-rights lobby doesn’t spend much effort arguing the issue; they just threaten legislators’ careers — that’s power politics at its meanest core.

The good news is that not only is reason on the side of gun-control advocates, so are the numbers. A significant majority of Americans, including many gun-owning moderates, favor the modest types of gun-control measures that still provide ample access to gun ownership. The challenge students and gun-control advocates face is learning how to mobilize at a grass-roots level so they can wrest the power away from what has long been a narrow-minded and brutally self-serving minority.

Angelo Lynn

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