MARCH 2018 • LONGISLANDPRESS.COM 21
POINT OF VIEW
Congress keeps shooting blanks at gun issue
By STEVE ISRAEL
It’s tragically ironic that I left
Congress to write novels, and
that my next book deals with why
Congress does nothing on the issue
of gun violence.
I started writing my book in
December 2012, as I sat in my
local office in Hauppauge. The
Sandy Hook massacre had killed
26 children and adults. I watched
families clutching each other.
Watched tears stream down then-
President Obama’s face. Watched the
pundits and commentators assure
us that Congress would act. Finally.
That the murders of our precious
children would not be in vain.
I knew back then that I’d be
inundated with questions about how
Congress would respond. Would
it enhance background checks?
Reinstate the assault weapons ban?
Limit magazine capacities?
I was confident that we would do
something. Doing nothing when
our schoolchildren are massacred
would be the most shameless act of
cowardice in recent congressional
history. Back then, I couldn’t believe
that Congress would put political
calculation ahead of kids.
I was wrong. We did nothing. Zero.
Since then, there have been 200
other school shootings that killed
400 people, according to the Gun
Violence Archive. And what has
Congress done? Again, nothing.
I witnessed hard lessons. About
Political Action Committee (PAC)
contributions, voter intensity,
base politics, the might of gun
manufacturers, the competition
within the gun lobby. So I wrote.
Sitting through hearings and
markups and the most asinine
debates imaginable. Hearing some
of my colleagues defend the rights
of suspected terrorists to carry
weapons instead of the right of
students not to be shot in their
classrooms. Listening, while almost
punching through my keyboard, as
my colleagues explained that this
was a mental health problem while
doing nothing to increase resources
for, mental health.
In this case, their cheap talk was
deadly. I became pretty skeptical.
I hope that this time the voices of
high school students will carry from
Florida to Washington, D.C. and
across the nation. I hope they finally
shame Congress into action.
And I hope you join them. Because
many of my former colleagues are
betting that you’ll be drowned out.
That you’ll turn this page, click
another link, become distracted by
the latest presidential tweet.
Your voice won’t make a difference
everywhere. There are places where
pro-gun gerrymandering might
as well have shaped congressional
districts in the shape of an AR-15
assault rifle. So work on the state
level to elect officials who will
draw better districts after the 2020
census — districts where you might
actually see bumper stickers that say
“I Remember Parkland & I Vote.”
Just as important, understand that
states are filling the policy vacuum
created by a currently obstinate
Congress and spend time and
money on those local races as well.
Or, you can keep doing what you’ve
been doing: Recycle your rage at
the deaths of our children. Elect the
same people, watch the same press
conferences, feel the same shock,
sadness, anger. And, before long,
scratch your heads trying to remember
what ever happened at Parkland.
Steve Israel’s next novel “Big Guns”
may be ordered at repsteveisrael.com
or directly from your local bookstore.
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