Sometimes it may seem like the gargantuan lobbying power of the National Rifle Association is unstoppable. For decades now, the conservative group of firearm fetishists have impeded any kind of meaningful legislation to install reasonable background checks and keep the more absurdly powerful weapons out of the hands of civilians, resulting in the mass proliferation of firearms and the mass shootings which accompany them- which now occur so frequently that it averages out to one mass shooting every day this year.
But all is not lost. It just takes a fortune to do it. In October 2014, Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates donated a million dollars to Initative 594 in Washington State, which would mandate universal background checks for all firearms purchases in the state- and close the gunshow loophole.
Gates’ donation was a strong show of support for a wildly popular piece of legislation that was spearheaded by Nick Hanauer, the Amazon investor who poured $1.4 million into getting the bill passed, along with Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown For Gun Safety coalition, which donated $4 million. But Gates, with his fame and fortune, had the ability “to grab headlines and make an issue go viral with the constant media coverage he receives, and the financial ability, if he wins, to fund similar efforts around the country,” remarked the Daily Beast.
The bill passed with 60% support from voters, and was decried by an NRA lobbyist who likened it to Nazi Germany and had the extremely poor taste to insinuate that the Holocaust was caused because German Jews didn’t secretly hoard firearms:
It’s like (laughter) . . . How stupid can they — you know? Now, he’s funding, he’s put half-a-million dollars toward this policy, the same policy that led to his people getting run out of Germany by the Nazis. You know, it’s staggering to me, it’s just, you can’t make this stuff up. That these people, it’s like any Jewish people that I meet who are anti-gun, I think: Are you serious? Do you not remember what happened?
That kind of absurd equivocation is what those who advocate for #gunsense are up against. The bill was a huge step forward towards somehow resolving what is a huge public safety crisis for our nation. Guns kills thousands of productive members of American society every year- and the harm falls even harder on our children. A report by the Children’s Defense Fund notes that a child is killed or hurt by a gun every 30 minutes, based on data from 2010. A total of 2,694 American children died from gun violence in that year, making up 93% of all child gun deaths across twenty six developed nations.
Those numbers are horrifying, and it is absolutely reprehensible that we allow such unnecessary tragedies to occur again and again. Our children and citizens deserve much better. Is it really too much to ask for our people to be able to live their lives without fear of being gunned down in school, or at the movies, or in church, or at their jobs? It is VERY alarming that it took six million dollars to push through universal background checks in one state. But hopefully, we can take that lesson and apply it on a larger scale to finally allow our citizens to live in peace.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.