By Ethan Rome – Executive Director, Health Care for America Now
For supporters of the urgent push for sensible gun laws, the fierce national battle over health care is a good example of how folks can beat the odds.
One of the most extraordinary things about the campaign to win Obamacare was the sheer will of its supporters – the ability to maintain momentum and keep going in the face of one challenge after another. The campaign for commonsense gun laws needs the same thing right now. While advocates have been slogging away for years, the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and so many other places have created an historic opportunity for change. We cannot afford to let the momentum and attention slip away.
We can already see the obstacles. Just a few days after the National Rifle Association (NRA) had a press event where they offered a shockingly stupid and tone deaf response to the massacre in Newtown, Conn., they’re back to doing what they do best — telling everyone what they’re against. Anything that smacks of regulating guns is a bad idea, they say. The only way to end senseless firearms violence is more guns, they say.
Already the apologists for the NRA and the gun manufacturers are out in full force, explaining how there are so many factors that contribute to this problem that we can’t possibly tackle one of the solutions that’s within our reach.
This time, it appears, members of Congress are not cowering. Many former opponents of sensible gun laws are announcing their support for measures like criminal background checks for all gun-buyers and bans on military-style assault rifles and high-capacity magazines – the equipment used in the most recent mass shootings. Polls show that the public and most NRA members are on their side.
The outcome of the gun debate, as in the health care battle, will be determined by political will and the courage of individual members of Congress to stand up for what they believe to get results.
When she was Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi was a big reason we won health care. She defined what it means to be a leader. She was smart and strategic, and she got others to follow. But perhaps most importantly, in the dark days of January and February of 2010, when it looked like health reform would fall short in Congress, Pelosi was willful. She wouldn’t give up. Pelosi boldly told the American people what it would take to win – and gave us a roadmap for this fight:
We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in, but we’re going to get health care reform passed for the America people.
We must ensure that the innocent victims of Newtown and other mass shootings, along with the 12,000 people killed each year by gun violence, did not die or suffer in vain. The fallen and their families deserve better. It’s time for Congress to pole vault in and break the political inertia that leaves us all at risk.
We took on the mammoth task of reforming a broken health care system, and our political leaders beat the odds through sheer force of will. Now our leaders must use the same single-minded determination to end rampant gun violence.