A perennial cycle in perpetual motion

19 Sep 2013

N.B. This article was perversely written just before the Navy Yard shooting. I sincerely hope meaningful action can be taken by the politicians tasked with looking after citizens of the United States and that justice can be the outcome of this tragedy.

Voters are fickle beings; they change their minds more than Mitt Romney changes his ideals. When the unfathomable occurs, opinion adjusts accordingly: take the Boston Marathon bombings for instance, take the response to 9/11 attacks. A new voter position becomes the norm until something equally hypnotising captures voters opinion, and like a kitten with yarn, voters are too distracted by the new issue to even reflect on bygones.


The reason why is quite simple. The people see government as a tool of implementing the necessary, and when is necessity more apparent than after disaster? That's why the PATRIOT act would never have passed had '9/11' never occurred, why 'Miranda' rights would still be enshrined and affirmed by all if 'Boston Bomber' Tszarnev hadn't needed to be questioned. 

Once the time for action has passed, so has the voter’s attention span. This perpetual cycle is the exact perennial hell that the US is locked in over the 2nd amendment.

Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook.

After all of these tragedies public opinion fluctuated like a Sine Wave, for lack of better rhetoric. Occasionally, the hurt and outrage will continue for longer than a few months, but a Piers Morgan figure is needed to keep the issue afresh in the minds of the ever tiring electorate. (And, by a Piers Morgan figure, I don't mean a pompous Brit, I just mean someone with airwave power and a large following).

Being young, I wasn't really compos mentis at the time of Columbine, but last year reading about it, perversely just before the Sandy Hook tragedy, it made me feel physically, gut wrenchingly ill. I failed to understand how such a tragedy could fail to provoke any action, until of course I saw Sandy Hook unfold.

‘Momentum’ is a word journalists love to use in relation to firearm legislation and opinion, and they couldn't have chosen a more appropriate term. The real problem is that no-one really cares about gun control until either the rest of the country decides it's an issue- i.e. a school shooting provokes thought; or an everyday personal tragedy occurs and the angst of pain is tangible to those who used to be perfunctory with regards to the 2nd Amendment. 

In the absence of lasting fervent opinion, momentum is key; without it, no vote can occur and when that vote inevitably fails, no one will be held to account. 

If I were to ask now, which Senators voted against the Manchin-Toomey bill, would anyone know?

And therein lies the problem. Fear is a key weapon used by NRA and alike gun lobbies. They love the old, 'you vote against us you'll lose your seat' ploy. Unlike the electorate, they don't forget which way you voted and seat targeting commences.

And this brings us to the Colorado Senate recall election and the defeat of two gun control Democrats in would-be solid districts. The problem is that people at the moment don't care about gun control, it's not in the news cycle, it's not on the tip of the tongue. Gun right activists are given the perfect opportunity to remove opposition- whilst casual voters are apathetic, due not to political disinterest, just general nonchalance.

And herein lies the sad truth that gun ownership will never be reined in, assault rifles cannot be banned (just ask the Supreme Court and the Senate). It's not the fault of the NRA, it's not the fault of those stereotyped as 'hicks' and 'rednecks', it's not even the Justices or the Senators faults. It's the people, their insouciance reverberates and allows activists to shape their plans as they wish. In a democracy, for anything meaningful to occur, the people must be prevalent: the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam protests, the fall of Gaddafi. When it comes to the second amendment people are only for or against it when it's in the news, otherwise they're bystanders. They don't really care, hence nothing will be done. A perennial cycle in perpetual motion.

By Adam Isaacs

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