2006-05-05 / Editorial/Opinion

Federal Legislators Are Puppets For Gun Lobby

You would think that the federal government would want people with illegal guns to be caught and punished. If you think that, however, you are wrong. A rider secretly added to a House of Representatives appropriations bill by the gun lobby's lackeys made it illegal for any city to use information from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) database as evidence in court. That bill forbids the city from using any federal arms-tracing information at a time when guns are flooding the city from other parts of the nation. How could our Representatives pass a bill that keeps us from tracking those guns? You will have to ask them. Perhaps they do not even realize the rider existed. Perhaps they have been funded by the gun lobby - the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers. Perhaps they believe that their constituency does not want strong gun laws. Perhaps they just don't care. That rider was just the latest in a series of proposed laws that would protect the gun lobby. Earlier in the year, the House passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which does nothing else but grant amnesty to gun dealers who know that their wares are going to dangerous elements and sell them anyway. Guns are a national problem. We have to praise Mayor Michael Bloomberg for rallying big city mayors across the nation to do something about gun violence. With the federal government exacerbating the problem by passing laws that make it more difficult to track and confiscate guns, however, it becomes much more difficult to coordinate that attempt. Our legislators should be assisting us in ending the glut of gun deaths, not hindering that goal by insulating those who actually profit from those deaths.

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I think the more significant issue here is the ongoing question of the line-item veto. The comment, "Perhaps they do not even realize the rider existed," might be better phrased, "Perhaps they consider this issue a small price to pay to gain what they want." And the "they" here, are probably folks making a substantial income, and living in a safely ensconced, gated community.

As long as our legislators can tag on these seemingly insignificant riders onto bills of major significance, we who haven't the wherewithall to barricade ourselves against the crimes of poverty and hoplessness, will continue to suffer the thoughtlessness and carelessness of our representatives.

If I live to be 100 years old, I will never understand the practice of tagging bills with last-minute, irrelevant riders. We need to have the power to eliminate this practice. Realistically, it's only purpose appears to be subterfuge.

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