Thoughts and prayers.
We heard those words again last week after another angry man picked up his legally purchased battlefield weapon and attacked a Florida high school, killing 17.
Thoughts and prayers from political leaders, again. What they really should be saying is “dollars and cents.”
Because money, not logic, not sound public policy, not hollow thoughts and prayers, controls the gun safety debate in America.
In the last election cycle, the gun lobby poured $55 million into campaigns.
Donald Trump benefited from more than $31 million of gun-lobby money donated to support his campaign and oppose Hillary Clinton.
Florida’s junior senator, Marco Rubio, has collected $3.3 million from the gun lobby in his political career.
The biggest pile of gun lobby money goes to Republicans. The first Democrat on the list of current members of the House and Senate, Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia, ranks 79th with $49,496.
Minnesota’s Collin Peterson, a Democrat who represents the Seventh District that includes the western half of Stearns County, ranks 84.
Rep. Tom Emmer, the Republican who represents Minnesota’s Sixth District, ranks 258 with $3,000.
These contributions were compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics from Federal Election Commission candidate reports.
Gun-lobby money buys votes and blocks any action on gun-safety issues. Even for candidates who get little or no money, the threat of well-funded attacks against them keeps them in line.
No wonder thoughts and prayers don’t lead to action.
The first major bill passed in 2017 and Trump’s first major legislative achievement made it easier for people who were not mentally competent enough to manage their money to buy guns. Emmer voted for that measure.
When Sen. Dianne Feinstein proposed blocking gun sales to persons who are on various terrorist lists, including being banned from boarding airplanes, the Senate voted no.
Following the Las Vegas mass shooting that left 58 people dead, members of congress talked about banning so-called “bump stocks,” an after-market device that converts semi-automatic weapons to full automatics. To date, there’s no action on that.
The majority of Americans support gun-safety measures that in no way threaten the Second Amendment. Depending on the specific poll and the question asked, the support ranges from 70 to more than 90 percent.
These measures include: background checks on all sales; banning high-capacity magazines; renewing the assault weapons ban that was law between 1994 and 2004; and improving the quality of the background-check database so people don’t fall through the cracks.
There are other ideas open for debate including requiring gun-proficiency tests much like driver’s tests and “red-flag” laws that allow law enforcement to intervene during background checks.
None of these ideas come even close to banning or confiscating guns.
Dollars and cents should not be part of this debate.
There’s one factor that carries more power than big money and that’s politicians’ fears they will be voted out of office.
Voters must make it clear to politicians that if you fail to act, if you block reasonable debate on commonsense measures, if you only offer thoughts and prayers, you will pay at the ballot box and you will be voted out of office.