2017-10-06 / Opinion

Not Too Soon


Jackie Sartoris Jackie Sartoris “Devon?” The woman’s voice rose, her eyes scanning the area. Nothing. “DEVON!” The anxiety in her voice raw, those nearby began looking, too. Finally, “Here I am, Mom!” A kid my son’s age ducked around the mums, smiling broadly. Nearby adults nodded tightly at one another, oddly quiet in the grocery store. Hours before, our nation topped our modern record in lives lost to another gun massacre.

Fifty-eight families are calling out for loved ones. They won’t get an answer. There are only questions. Were they scared? Were they in pain? Why?

There is a simple answer to only one of these questions. Fifty-eight innocents are dead, 600 families marred forever, thousands more traumatized. Why? Because the NRA owns our politicians. They buy politicians’s votes through campaign contributions. Why? Because the NRA’s real constituency — gun manufacturers — reap millions from our lax gun laws.

Look no further than the jump in stock value for gun companies on the morning following the Nevada shooting. Smith & Wesson, Sturn, Ruger & Co., Vista Outdoors (“Savage Arms”) — all posted gains. That’s not an odd result. Every time a bloodbath occurs, there’s a run on guns. The NRA stokes fear that regulation may — finally! — occur, so better stock up. It worked for eight years of the Obama Presidency, claiming Obama was just about to confiscate guns. It never happened, but firearm purchases reliably rise every time the NRA stokes fear. Each massacre, the NRA calls the tune: white male fear, gun hoarding, massacre, repeat.

We have the least-regulated access to guns in the entire western world. And so we have the highest levels of gun ownership, which directly causes the highest levels of gun violence. With the market saturated after all those years of Obama non-confiscation, the NRA needs to sell something new, or improved, or just more. The shooter stockpiled over 40 guns.

The NRA spent $30 million to elect the Republican President in 2016. He will be loyal. $20 million went to just six Republican Senate races. They’re on the payroll. House Speaker Paul Ryan recently received $20,000 from a gun silencer manufacturer. Coincidentally, Ryan’s bill to deregulate silencers just about got to a vote in Congress. Since Las Vegas, it’s delicately tabled — temporarily.

Congressman Bruce Poliquin has received $201,398 from the NRA, according to the New York Times. Boasting an 87 percent NRA approval rating, Poliquin reliably represents the NRA. NRA contributions to Senator Collins dried up after she supported limited gun regulations following the massacre of 20 first graders in Newtown, Connecticut. The NRA pays for loyalty. Yet Collins still votes with the NRA, 77 percent of the time. As do most Republicans.

State lawmakers raked in tens of thousands of NRA dollars and contributions from the former owner of Bushmaster rifles over the past several years. The cash goes mostly to state Republicans, who mostly do their bidding. Past contributions went to the heads of the very committees that regulate firearms in Maine, Democrats and Republicans.

Think the money doesn’t matter? I watched a committee hearing this year in which speakers had to sign up to speak, then wait for over an hour to be heard. Before lawmakers began their discussion, they called up the NRA lobbyist who had not signed up to speak on that particular bill. “Do you have anything you’d like to add?” they asked. A friendly back-and-forth ensued, on a first-name basis, illustrating the insider access the big money buys. Maine recently rejected even background checks due to an NRA-funded smear campaign calling the referendum a “New York” regulation. The NRA lobbyists I’ve met sure don’t come from Maine. But when even human lives don’t matter, hypocrisy is small beer.

NRA members number just about 1 percent of Americans. We are ten times more likely to die from gun violence than any other western nation. This is not the price we pay for freedom. It’s the price we pay for corruption. The NRA’s money silences the vast majority of Americans, who support common sense gun regulations. The NRA’s corruption is so extreme, it even ended mere research into gun deaths by the CDC, 20 years ago.

We live in a nation that values the money to be made by guns more than our lives, that disenfranchises the many — even to the point of death — to give profits to a few. Your kids could be next. Your husband, your wife, best friend, or colleague. It’s the American way. Hey, someone’s making money, right?

In Maine, only Congresswoman Pingree and gubernatorial candidate Betsy Sweet demanded change. The rest, thoughts, prayers, and conversations. How do they plan to lead? So far, with silence.

The silence of 58 more dead. For them, it’s not too early. It’s already too late.

Jackie Sartoris is a former Brunswick Town Councilor.

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