This Friday was the one year anniversary of the horrific shootings in a darkened movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, a day that will live in infamy in our history and forever taint our social legacy. The gunman had in his possession an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 12-gauge 870 shotgun, and two 40 caliber Glock handguns.
Following the shooting I wrote my first piece on gun control called 'Why Gun Control is Patriotic'. It was a plea for common sense and for a meaningful response to the growing scourge of gun violence in America, and in it I was joined by many more voices, especially after the tragedy in Newton, Connecticut, where 20 children were killed in an elementary school by a crazed gunman who had with him a Bushmaster M-4 carbine with high capacity 30 round clips, a Glock 10mm handgun, and a Sig-Sauer 9mm handgun.
Yet, even after these incidents, not to mention several others, and despite the intense public outcry for the government to act after Newtown, we still have not made any real progress on gun control.
Part of the reason is the well-oiled and well-financed public relations and political machine of the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers, who have done everything in their power to crush any type of legislation, no matter how urgently needed, that could restrict the sale of weapons to civilians. This includes expanded background checks, which was defeated earlier this year in the U.S. Senate by Republicans intent on preserving their gravy train provided by the powerful gun lobby.
The other part of the reason is a lack of serious political will. Right out of the gate, a new assault weapons ban, which would have reduced the proliferation of military style weapons (some of which were carried by both the Aurora and Newtown gunmen) in American society, was dropped entirely by the Democrats because of their fear that it would be impossible to get it past the resistance of the GOP. While Senate Democrats and some Republicans did put forward a proposal to expand background checks, they still lost the battle in the end to the machinations of the gun lobby.
Perhaps this political reality was inevitable given the extreme partisan divide in our government. Or perhaps it is just the nature of the opposition -- the willful disregard for human life, the blind adherence to a hopelessly outdated Constitutional Amendment, the willingness to profit from violence, and political gamesmanship by the NRA, the gun manufacturers, and the Republican party, have reached such lows that not even the deaths of young children seem to matter to them anymore.
But whatever the cause, the Democrats should have more backbone, and continue the fight to get guns off our streets and stem the tide of senseless violence that has racked our nation over the past year. In the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict, President Obama once again brought up the need for gun control, but sincere as he might be, words are not enough. The President, and the Democratic party, need to follow it up with action. Setbacks may be a part of our political process, but they are not an excuse to do nothing.
Today, the majority of Americans support at least some type of new gun legislation, whether it be an assault weapons ban, stronger background checks, restrictions on irresponsible marketing of guns, stiffer penalties for smuggling of guns across state lines, or keeping firearms out of public places such as schools. With this type of mandate behind them, the Democrats still have a chance of accomplishing something meaningful and at least jumpstarting the process of moving our nation towards a more peaceful and more civilized existence.
Sure, the NRA and gun lovers will kick and scream as they always do, but at some point, America must draw the line against letting those groups jeopardize our safety and take a stand for our right to be free of gun violence. I want to say that again -- our right to be free of gun violence, our right to be able to walk around safely without having to carry an arsenal to protect ourselves, and most of all, our right to life.
So here is my question for Washington: why have you forgotten about gun control and why is it not at the top of our national agenda?
SANJAY SANGHOEE is a political and business commentator. He is a banker, has an MBA from Columbia Business School, and is the author of "Killing Wall Street". For more information, please visit www.killingwallstreet.com