In a provocative twist to yesterday’s shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, it was Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, who called on Democratic lawmakers to shut down the federal government until Congress passes stricter gun control laws, in a frustrated response to the right-wing’s constant blackmailing of the budget to try to force through their own ideological platform.
Arguing that gun control should be the highest priority, Cuomo said “I’d love to see the Democrats stand up and say, We’re going to shut down the federal government or threaten to shut down the government if we don’t get real gun control legislation.” He went on to say that; “It is such a failure of our political system and frankly such a blatant failure of the elected officials of this country.” Cuomo went on to call out both parties: “I would like to see Hillary and the vice president and whoever else is in the race from both parties talk about the issue of guns.”
Clinton has been pushing for gun control for decades, however, there was a marked shift in her position after the AME Church massacre in South Carolina in July. Calling out the gun lobby she said; “This is a controversial issue. I am well aware of that. But I think it is the height of irresponsibility not to talk about it.” In August before an audience at the DNC, she said “Now I know the politics are hard. I know that some would rather throw up their hands and give up the fight, but not me. I’m not going to sit by while more good people die across America.” As the Daily Beast commented at that time “No wonder the NRA has vowed to bring her down.”
President Obama sharply criticized ‘Congress’ again yesterday for the fifteenth time in his presidency over gun violence. However, the real problem is the Republican Party, which operates as proxy for the gun lobby. Republicans were hysterical accusing the President of overreacting regarding yesterday’s shooting; “Sadly, President Obama could not restrain himself and went into his normal rant before all the facts were in…This is not about new gun safety laws…Guns have a safety mechanism on them. And for responsible gun owners, there are gun safety courses that advance individual firearm confidence and proficiency.” And of course, the standard ‘broken record’ ‘it not guns, but people that are the problem’; “The reality is gun control laws control the behavior of legitimate people…People who rob stores, people who rob banks and people who are insane and want to go ahead and murder people don’t follow the gun control laws.”
‘Reality’ is not part of the Republican vocabulary as anyone willing to look at the gun deaths statistics would understand. There is a massacre in the form of a school shooting nearly every week, and the NRA’s answer is to arm teachers and allow teachers to bring guns to school. The reality as CNN reports is that between 2004 and 2013; 316,545 people have died by firearms in the U.S.
But the bloodshed at Umpqua Community College represents to Republicans not a gun violence problem brought about by too many guns, but a crisis of faith and the reflection of a mental health issue that isn’t an important priority for them either.
Unfortunately for the American people, the Republican identity is wrapped in guns and religious fundamentalism. It is as true today as it was in 2008 when President Obama said “it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
We need to keep in mind Governor Cuomo signed some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation in 2013 – so tough, in fact, a conservative journal described the strictest regulation as “(t)he ridiculous New York gun law that turns tourists into terrorists.” So Cuomo knows what can be accomplished when facing a tough political and moral challenge. Cuomo’s point is not about shutting down the government, but rather is calling out to the political establishment; “Rather than the political blather that is now going on, let’s put some real issues on the agenda and let’s put at the top: What are you doing to about guns?…Let’s have that be one of the top priorities.”
Opinion columnist and former 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.