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Your ballot has never been worth more

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Posted: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 3:30 pm

You and I could probably arrive at the same conclusion after considering how to address gun violence. 

After all, we agree this isn’t all about guns. How we get there is different. 

You might responsibly own a gun collection and possess a certainty it takes a nut to shoot people. I’m open to every consideration. 

But the one I’m stuck on is the original cause of this violent epidemic.

Let me back up to the beginning of the year. 

From January 1, to now, we have witnessed 18 school shootings, the latest tragedy occurring on Valentine’s Day this week, in Parkland, Florida. The number begs for a solution that seems as easy as tighter controls on who can and cannot own a gun. The problem is more complex. We didn’t intend on starting the first two months of the year setting records for attacks on schools. That started earlier.

For this violence to break out this often, it seems tougher to figure out than yesterday. I’m not saying it was specific intent. What I do believe is eyes were turned away from what created the environment for this sadness. We see different solutions but eight of nine people I’ve spoken with agrees we need to address this problem. They each own at least one gun. 

If we can arrive at that type of consensus as neighbors, why can’t we do this at a federal government level? Virtually everyone I know takes a sober, sensible view of this madness and agrees, it is time to do something. 

Again, only looking at guns misses an underlying cause. The cause of this and every bit of unraveling we’ve seen started in 2010.

Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission pitted a group of companies, political groups and billionaires against the federal government agency that oversees adherence to election laws – including individual campaign contribution limits. Citizens United wanted the court to consider companies and organizations to be the same as individual voters. If they prevailed, these multi-billion dollar entities could donate to Political Action Committees just like you or me. There’s no contribution limits to PACS. They bundle it up and pass it on to the candidates.

They prevailed, by a 5-4 vote of the Justices. 

One vote and suddenly Koch Industries, who owns everything from toilet paper producers to fertilizer and pesticides, can donate as much as they like across a wide swath of PACS. 

Who can blame them? A senator on the right side of politics could now receive the maximum contribution from a large pool of PACS. 

Before, he or she had to settle for a couple of thousand dollars, one donor at a time.

What was in it for Citizens United was control of the agenda. The group wanted a reduction in federal regulations and oversight. They didn’t like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And they didn’t want to be told where to dump the waste when they were fracking for oil. 

They definitely didn’t want anything touched with the word “gun” in it. Who could blame them? These were the interests of the group and they had the money to be heard because Senator Velvet-Pockets didn’t want to call 50 people every night for spare change.

No, I don’t blame Citizens United at all. But what you want and what you can have should always co-exists. If you get everything you want, it has tragic consequences. 

In 2010, the Supreme Court allowed unlimited money into politics. 

In 2016, the National Rifle Association poured over $31 million dollars (or the equivalent of 15,000 individual contributions) into the Trump campaign. They could do it. Why wouldn’t they? It’s the law and their right. The unintended consequence is the problem.

When you give as though you are 15,000 voters, you carry the weight of 15,000 voters. 

I, and the eight friends who agree with me we need to address the fact that 8 million civilians own machine guns, well, we’re outnumbered. 

Everything in the best interests of large, rich, entities costs a little more than the advertised price. We lose our individual voice. We look at the carnage later like a car wreck and immediately think of safer cars. 

What we fail to see is we shouldn’t have loaned the driver our keys.

Our saving grace is corporations may be people but despite the fact they buy influence, they cannot vote. That part is up to real people. We’re equals when we vote. Our ballots are our currency. We can’t afford not to use it.

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