The troubling difference in the momentum to get something done on gun violence and immigration is summed up in the first two pages of today’s Post. A headline on the front page of The Post today reads “Pro-gun forces target key bills.” A headline on A2 reads “Immigration backers step up efforts.” In the former, the gun lobby has the upper hand in scuttling efforts to bring a modicum of sanity to the nation’s gun laws. In the latter, grass-roots action is happening to ensure the people have the upper hand. And each one very well might succeed.
Despite overwhelming support for background checks, Senate negotiators can’t seem to seal a deal to make it a part of legislation coming out of that chamber. And that’s not all. “Another provision that garnered bipartisan support — making gun trafficking a federal crime,” The Post reports, “could be gutted if Republican lawmakers accept new language being circulated by the National Rifle Association.” Proving once again that the tentacles of the NRA have great reach.
The story on the effort for immigration reform is infinitely more hopeful. Activists are pushing hard in a variety of ways to make their voices heard. The Post’s David Nakamura reports that evangelicals are expanding an ad campaign on Christian radio stations. And there will be a series of demonstrations here in Washington. April 10 will see a planned rally of thousands at the Capitol. April 17 will see religious leaders swarming lawmakers for meetings. Labor unions get into the act in May. Of course, the momentum on immigration reform benefits from a desperate need by the Republican Party to do right by the fastest growing minority group in the United States.
“It’s been said that the most compelling voice a legislator hears is that of his own constituents,” said Tim King, communications director at Sojourners, a Christian advocacy group on social issues that is helping stage the radio ad campaign.
That adage is true, except, it seems, when it comes to taming the scourge of gun violence. To be fair, gun control advocates are doing the best they can. Through a super PAC and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is self-financing efforts to buck up the courage of members of Congress to do the right thing. Groups such as 20 Children and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, both of which sprang from the horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last December, are also doing their best. But that’s not good enough.
President Obama has done about as much as he can on this issue. And he’ll be at it again tomorrow when he speaks at a police academy in Denver. But the president needs backup. Anti-gun-violence advocates need to march on the Capitol. They need to flood the offices of legislators both in Washington and in their home districts. They need to jam the phone lines of wavering lawmakers in both places, too.
“The N.R.A. has just had this field to itself,” Mr. Bloomberg told the New York Times last month. “It’s the only one that’s been speaking out. It’s time for another voice.” It’s time for the collective voice of the American people.
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