The first goal of every politician is to get into power. The second goal is to stay in power. Good politicians (an oxymoron?) know their constituents’ concerns and values. They work hard to be perceived as someone who shares those values. It is compelling to watch our congressman maneuver around today’s biggest issues, and to stay in the good graces of today’s splintered republican party.
Gun violence and ways to curb it creates lively discussions throughout our congressional district, the New NY 23rd. Groups from both sides of the issues have been awaken from the calm of normality to the realization that we really do have a national problem that needs to be solved.
These groups are emotionally tied to their beliefs. There’s Gun Rallies scheduled in Albany this month. The organizers have hired buses to bring the protesters to Albany on February 20. Besides the large demonstrations, there have been local meetings, letters-to-the editors, on-line forums, blogs and social media activity, as well as talk radio and cable news stations on both sides of both issues.
These are super charged issues. Many voters are passionate about their side of these issues. Astute politicians must decide how they stand on all issues, but the gun issues are especially important. Our elected leaders test their political skills and experience by walking a tight rope trying to gather as much support from their base without alienating other voters. Many voters, especially those who believe that the Second Amendment is the ‘most important’ amendment, will use the gun issues, and their perception of the candidate’s personal feeling about the gun issues, to determine who to vote for in the next election. These voters do not easily forget who supported them.
Our congressman, Rep. Tom Reed has been pretty consistence on his stand on the gun violence issue since the Newtown shootings. His opinions mirror the NRA’s talking points: He knows the ‘right words’ to use. He feels the focus should be on the shooter, not the weapon. There should be ‘conversations’ on improving the mental health services, and an acknowledgement there is a ‘culture of violence’ in our society to blame. The second amendment shouldn’t be weakened, and there’s no need in changing the laws on background checks that punishes the mentally healthy law-abiding citizen.
I would like to examine Rep. Reed’s stance on one portion of the gun issues–background checks. At the Dryden Town meeting February 2, when asked about background checks he said:
“Background checks–I think that is a state issue that can be dealt with. And hopefully identifying people–and that is where the mental health issue comes in. Identifying people with mental health issues and saying that you shouldn’t be getting a weapon because of that documented situation. That’s a reasonable situation that we should consider.”
His discussion about Background Checks at the Seneca Falls meeting, a few hours after the Dryden meeting was a bit different. He started by pushing the issue to the state, and then slid into the mental health issue. At Seneca Falls, he explained what he believes, what he can and can not support.
“Background checks. I think it is a tool. But we go down this slope. I come there from very, very, hesitant to take away the freedoms. Those are constitutional freedoms, and if you use the background check as a mechanism to restrict that freedom I’m not going to be interested in supporting that. So it depends on what is referred by, what that actually means, what kind of universal background check you are talking about. Is it a blanket–every one has to get checked? Neh, I don’t see the practicality of that, I’m not going to be supportive of that. But if there’s, you know, some areas where people have been diagnosed with Mental Health Issues, have some type of screening so that they don’t get a weapon. I haven’t worked out the details on how to do that, but that is something we can take a look at. We are willing to explore that.”
Question from audience: “There’s the people who fall through the cracks, if you don’t do the background checks, how would you know? I have had students who for many years I have thought they are not safe.”
Reed: The other thing on Universal background checks….the gun show loop holes come from. The Gun Show venders try to play by the law and there “straw men” who are outside in the parking lot going around the rules. We need to enforce, we need to go after that. So, just because we have a background check doesn’t mean that every one (will comply), your law-abiding citizen will comply but the bad guy won’t comply with that. That has to be taken into consideration. You have to look at the, if I am selling a gun to my brother, what do I have to do to comply with the universal background? Will there be a family exemption?
In comparing the two quotes we can see that they are very similar. The words may have changed, and the statements may have grown, but the his opinion did not change. Reed is definitely against background checks.
To many, including the teacher who spontaneously asked the question about “people falling through the cracks”, it doesn’t make sense. You have background checks at stores that sell guns, but not at gun shows? Why is there a difference? A smart ‘bad guy’ will wait for a gun show.
Americans overwhelmingly disagrees with Rep. Reed on background checks. A Quinnipiac Poll (February 7) found that Americans overwhelming support requiring background checks for everyone purchasing fire arms, 93%-7%. They also support banning high capacity ammunition magazines which hold more than 10 shots and wants to put a national ban on Assault weapons.
Reed know the numbers. Why would any politician be against background checks when 93% of Americans are for them? Reed realizes, and I agree, that in our district the number who support background checks will be significantly lower than the 93% reported by this poll—but I feel the number will be closer to 93% than 50%. The feeling is if any part of the gun legislation passes, it will be the background checks.
It’s a trick that politicians learn early: If you know that a motion, a resolution, or a bill is going to pass, you can vote ‘no’ to make a statement. You may deep down feel that you should agree with the bill, but you can get a lot of ‘political capital’ by voting ‘no’, on it. You will be perceived as a person who votes his conscience. He will keep his “A” NRA rating (It might even go to an “A+”.) All the constituents who disagrees with the background checks will admire Rep. Reed for voting no. And they’ll remember at the next election.
Remember the second goal of politicians: Stay in power.
- Some House Republicans appear ready to back universal background checks for gun purchases (dailykos.com)
- Lawmakers show support for gun measure (thenewstribune.com)
- Middle ground on gun laws not from greater Chattanooga area (timesfreepress.com)
- NRA: ‘Connecticut Effect’ Has Delayed Group’s Lobbying Against Gun Control (huffingtonpost.com)
- Congress to Vote on Universal Background Check (realtalkrealdebate.wordpress.com)