A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics
The other day I saw in person what we all know. Our elected representatives, especially Republicans, often represent only large corporate interests, even if those interests hurt most of the voters and their families.
The issue in question was gun control. I was at a family event in Portland, Oregon for a cousin’s son who lives in Republic, Washington, a town of about 1,000. At a brunch, I asked the men and teenage boys about gun control. They were all hunters and they all owned guns. They were all Republicans, as befits the name of their village.
Now most recent studies show that people who own guns have pretty much the same attitude about gun control as the rest of the country. For example, a Quinnipiac University poll a few years back found that 85% of all gun owners supported universal registration of firearms and only 13% opposed it, pretty close to the 88% in favor and 10% opposed to universal gun registration among the general population.
The seven or eight I spoke with all wanted universal registration. They had no problem with waiting periods. They supported a national registry of gun owners. They wanted all gun owners to have to take a gun safety course, and they didn’t have a problem with gun licenses. One teenaged boy said that anyone who couldn’t wait three days for a gun shouldn’t have one.
They all agreed that there was no need for people to own automatic and semiautomatic weapons. Wasn’t needed to hunt, wasn’t needed for protection.
I forgot to ask them about open carry laws, which is a shame, because those are some of the most extreme attempts to extend the rights of gun owner to the detriment of the community. I don’t want to put words into the mouths of this articulate group of individuals, but whether or not they liked open carry laws I am guessing that they do not object to gun bans on college campuses, hospitals, stadiums and other areas where large numbers of people gather. It’s only a guess. I’m also pretty sure that this group of conservative gun owners would support research into gun safety.
My anecdotal evidence backs up the surveys and reinforces the case that the National Rifle Association (NRA) represents the interests of gun manufacturers and doesn’t care about either public safety or the wishes of gun owners. By following the NRA’s wish list for legislation, both the craven politicians who kowtow to the NRA for fear that it will run someone against them and the brazen ones who take its money and mouth its lies follow the wishes of gun makers.
It’s a frightfully irresponsible way to play politics, but the preferred modus operandi of virtually every Republican and a fair share of Democrats. On tax policy, job creation, environmental protection, health care, Planned Parenthood, a Supreme Court Justice to replace Scalia and global warming, our Republican elected officials at all levels do not listen to what surveys say their constituents want.
I’m not the first to say that this lack of responsiveness has led angry voters to Donald Trump. That they haven’t been repulsed by Trump’s incitements to violence, his crude, unpresidential comments, his many lies and his authoritarian tendencies befuddles me. But that a large slice of Republican voters who don’t own businesses would be pissed off with all elected officials shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Copyright 2016 Marc Jampole