Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Blown Away by the NRA

Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday that gun control legislation in the Senate will emerge from committee disemboweled. The ban on assault weapons is dead, with no more than 40 Senators expressing support, and the ban on big ammunition clips is on life support. A “victory” at this point will be, at best, watered down background checks. And that is in the Senate. Mr. Boehner’s GOP controlled House will likely demolish background checks, too.

Flashback to the weeks after the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. We pledged to make a difference;  we vowed that it was different this time.  We posted article after article and meme after meme on Facebook. We shouted down NRA supporters in comment threads and in Washington, DC, we staged a little march on the NRA offices and held a candlelight vigil or two.

And then we lost focus.

We spend an awful lot of time crowing about our clever online organizing, but Internet activism has given us the attention span of fleas. We hang out on web sites where anyone can start a petition on any topic at any time. But political victories require real organization, real leadership and although it pains most of us to admit it, laser focus on a relatively small number of issues. While we flitted about signing a hundred Internet Petitions on dozens of topics, or engaged in useless cyber fisticuffs with Tea Party trolls in comment threads, the NRA was working. They shored up their votes in the Senate and lobbied their supporters online and offline.  The Tea Party joined the fray, coordinating meetings and informing supporters with fusillades of email alerts, including one with the astoundingly crass subject line "Bang Bang". But Bang Bang, they won. In the realpolitik of legislative advocacy the NRA was savvy and effective while our brave new online world was little more than sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Look back at your Facebook feed from Tuesday, the day Senator Reid announced the debacle. How many posts about gun violence did you see? How many appeals to mount a massive lobbying campaign to support the assault weapons ban in the Senate? Now, count how many shares you received about the clever folks that painted  gay pride colors on the house across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church. Post your counts in the comment feed below. On my Facebook page, it was Cool Colorful House 7, Gun Control 0. Yeah, the stunt with the house was worth sharing, but what is ultimately more important?

As I type tonight, police sirens are wailing, heading down Pennsylvania Avenue and racing south across the Anacostia River, where gun violence is as frequent as a sunset. If those sirens aren’t responding to a shooting tonight, they will be tomorrow. While we pat ourselves on the back for painting a house, kids are dying of gunshot wounds from DC to Denver to LA.

The NRA wins; we lose. It’s as common as the gunfire.

1 comment:

  1. I only had 4 rainbow houses and 0 gun violence posts yesterday (that I know of - haven't had much time for Facebook) but the result is the same.

    I do think we are fighting our innate tendencies a bit - those that want guns, power, money and domination start from a more aggressive place than folks that just want everyone to be ok and left alone. Not that we can't be angered, organize and be effective, just that it is farther from our default position...