It is a sad testament to the depth of our national indifference that it took the massacre of 20 first-graders to finally trigger a united and sustained public outcry for an end to the madness. After 62 mass murders and counting since 1982, we have, it would appear, finally reached the tipping point.
On this we can all agree: Never again.
In fairness, this complacency was not entirely our own fault, it was, by and large, fostered and fomented by the National Rifle Association, which runs interference and messaging for the corporations that mass-produce precision-engineered lethality. The NRA is paid handsomely to ensure that gun makers are never held accountable for the resultant bloodbaths whenever their product is used as intended. The NRA are, according to inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom, a fearsome lot, Vader-esque masters of the dark arts of fear, intimidation and paranoia.
The NRA is almost wizardly in its harnessing of the spellbinding power of mass media to obfuscate the obvious. In the wake of every one of those 62 mass murders, the NRA successfully convinced us to ignore the literally smoking guns at the center of all this carnage.
Pay no attention to that armor-plated guy with the M-16 methodically wasting the audience at a Batman movie. Gun laws can’t stop that kind of thing. Shit happens, get over it.
Pay no attention to that Kansas City Chiefs linebacker that just blew his head off in the stadium parking lot after ventilating the mother of his child nine times over. It’s Bob Costas who committed the real crime: attempting to speak truth to half time.
Twelve dead kids at Columbine High? I know what you’re thinking, but it wasn’t the guns, it was the Nine Inch Nails and the Marilyn Manson and the Trenchcoat Mafia, whatever that is. Guns don’t kill, people kill. Especially goth people.
And so on.
But as effective as it is at manipulating public opinion, the NRA is even more adept at bullying Congress. The voting record of every lawmaker in the land is assessed and scored for simpatico-ness with the NRA agenda. Pity the Republican who doesn’t score a perfect score or close to it, likewise the blue-dawg Dems trying to stay out of the doghouse in the red states they rep, because in addition to leading the congressional GOP around by its nose, they also claim to have some 50-plus Democrats on a short leash.
It is money that gives them this power—money in the form of 1) much-needed campaign contributions, and 2) threats of financing an errant politician’s pro-gun opponent.
What is surprising is how little money they actually have to spend to completely buy Congress. In the last three elections, the NRA has spent $3.3 million in direct campaign contributions.* If Congress can be bought for a measly $3.3 million, I say we buy it back.
What we need—and by “we,” I mean all the people tired of being shot at—is a gun-control Super PAC that will make the following offer to any congressman currently accepting campaign contributions from the NRA: If you will promise to change your position from “pro gun” to “gun neutral” and consider gun control legislation on its merits instead of mindlessly obstructing any efforts to prevent the next Sandy Hook, we will replace any and all campaign funding the NRA withdraws as a result. Additionally, we will match the NRA dollar for dollar if they bankroll a pro-gun opponent to run against you.
All we need is money, shitloads of money, and I know where we can find it.
Mayor Bloomberg, get out your checkbook. Time to put your money where your mouth is. (In all fairness, he already has.) And while you’re at it, why don’t you call Warren Buffett? He’s a reasonable man, pretty sure he’d be down with this. And Bill Gates, he’s in the saving-lives business these days. And they can call their 73 billionaire philantropist buddies who signed the Giving Pledge. That’s, like, $73 billion if we play our cards right. Pretty much everyone in Hollywood not named Jon Voight would ante up. The cops. Life insurers. And let’s not forget: There’s 311,591,917 Americans who haven’t joined the NRA. If everyone gives a dollar, that’s $311 million. By my calculation, that’s enough to buy 100 Congresses.
All kidding aside, I am deadly serious about this. This is doable, if not inevitable. Inaction is no longer an option. Because if, in the end, we do nothing to overcome the awful inertia of the status quo, if no good ever comes out of this evil, the wholesale slaughter of 20 children and the educators who died trying to protect them will remain for all eternity just as mindfuckingly meaningless and endlessly heartbreaking as their killer intended.
*In addition to direct contributions, the NRA spent a combined $44 million in the last three election cycles financing independent expenditures such as negative ads, so all told we would need about $38 million to fight fire with fire.
Jonathan Valania is the editor-in-chief of Phawker.com.