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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Special Edition Part III: Are WE Letting a Bully Hijack Our Democracy?

Thought for the Day: As I told you yesterday, I will be changing the format this week & special reports on my visit to Washington DC. Two things impacted on me & I will therefore combine them in this post. I won't be sharing pictures of my visit as I first intended. Events are happening so rapidly that my photos seem unimportant. The first thing that happened was a response to a post I made yesterday on facebook with a link to yesterday's special edition). I had an unsettling string of comments that I'd like to share. The comments  came from a young man, L.C., from Montana, who opened a discussion with me by saying: 
        "I'm pretty sure you ignorant if you think that you can't protect 2nd amendment rights and children at the same time."
         I ignored his questioning my intelligence & welcomed the opportunity to engage him in a discussion by responding that: " I have no problem with the 2nd amendment, just want to add sensible controls like universal background checks & a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons which are necessary for war, not for sport or on our streets. We register our cars so that we know who owns the car if it is involved in a fatal accident. Carrying a weapon requires responsibility & accountability by all owners." 
         L.C. wrote back:  "Look at my picture that we took for prom all of us holding weapons several semi auto almost non of them registered. Why? because its a way of life in Montana and in our nation. We are not criminals but God help anyone who comes after us." Then he added: "And I agree on the responsibility and accountability aspect."
          I responded that: "I am saddened to think that you feel the need to go to a prom holding a weapon. Accidents can happen, feelings can get hot & having a gun handy is not the best way to resolve problems at a dance. On Sat. a father shot his 10 month old son while handling a semi-automatic gun in a hotel room with his wife & 2 other children. It was an accident, that did not have to happen. I don't think that owning a gun makes someone a criminal, but there are people who should not be allowed to own a firearm & the increase in violence against innocent children & adults must be curtailed. What harm would it cause to have guns registered like cars or to have insurance like on cars to hold people accountable?"
          L.C. has not responded back to me yet, however, the discussion raises serious questions about what children & young adults are being taught about guns. Do we want our teenagers taking guns of any kind, registered or not, to a prom? Is it not bad enough that teens are drinking & driving after proms & ending up dying in car accidents? Mothers Against Drunk Driving has made a huge difference in the laws surrounding drinking & driving, but we must do the same with gun violence in our country.
            This interchange brings me back to my meetings & experiences in Washington DC. The young man who commented on my facebook page is just one example of a victim of misinformation being transmitted by our nation's worst bully. Ironically, I went to Washington as a psychologist seeing a direct connection between our schools' inability to contend with the rise in bullying among our children & the rise in violent attacks by students who have often been targets of bullying. As I listened to the advocates of gun sense, I began to see the parallel process that is occurring in Congress.
           The gun lobby which represents a small minority (3-4 million members which may be inflated by the organizers) (& over 70% of it's members support more gun control) (U.S. adult population is 237,744,633) is a bully using all it's financial resources to intimidate our elected officials to support the gun industry's vested financial interests. They use scare tactics & hide behind the 2nd amendment to make sure they can continue to produce & profit from the manufacture of weapons of war. They want to sell guns to whomever they can & do not care whose hands the guns end up in, which is why they do not want paper records of transactions. They have procured a ban on research that looks at the impact of gun violence on our society. They do not want anyone to know the psychological impact that gun violence has on our society's mental health. It would be bad for sales. 
          Our elected officials are afraid to vote according to their conscience because they are intimidated by these bullies. Polls show that over 90% of Americans support stricter gun control laws. As a psychologist, concerned about the impact of bullying & the difficulty children have to be more than a passive onlooker, I am concerned that we are guilty of supporting the bullies by not taking action & speaking up. Our senators & congressmen are being bullied (& fear they will lose financial contributions from the lobby) & we, by not speaking up, are making it harder for them to stand up to the powerful well oiled machine of the gun lobby. 
            Yesterday, I also learned that Senate Minority leader, Harry Reid, is refusing to bring the ban on semi-automatic weapons & ammo to a vote on the Senate floor with the other pieces of legislation that would help curb gun violence. In my mind, if we want to protect our children from the kind of weapons that turned an elementary school into an instantaneous killing field, limits on semi-automatic weapons & high powered multiple round munitions is key. Is the senate being bullied into cutting this out of the legislation? In Newtown, the 11 seconds that it took to reload the weapon saved 11 children's lives. The photo of the children killed in Newtown above reminds us that: "Remembering is Good. Taking Action is Better!" If you want changes & feel this is important, now is the time to stand up to the bullies in Washington & let your elected officials know that enough is enough.
            Don't let the bullies win. Here's a copy of an e-mail from the founder of Moms Demand Action with easy ways to let your elected officials know how you feel:

Hello Moms Demand Action members,

The Assault Weapons Ban is supported by more than a dozen Senate Democrats, the White House, and organizations for safer gun laws. So why is Sen. Reid waffling on whether to bring it to the floor as a bill?
Call Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid NOW at 202-224-3542 or Tweet him - @senatorreid

Go to our Fast-Tweet page so you can tweet your lawmakers from the website in less than a minute.

It will just take a minute and is a great way to let your representatives know this issue isn’t going away! Share this email with a friend and ask for their support!

Shannon Watts, Founder
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense In America

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