Voting is only way to ensure Congress takes action to slow stem of shooting tragedies

School Shooting FloridaDebate over gun control and mental health care always increases in the wake of a mass shooting like the one on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead, including 14 students.

Politicians offer thoughts and prayers and do nothing. Literally, they do nothing.

The reason, of course, is simple: They want to be re-elected and they’re afraid that lobbyists like the National Rifle Association will target them and cause them to lose their next election.

It’s why this problem continues to increase and why innocent lives are slaughtered.

President Trump, instead of comforting teachers and students and their families, turned the mass murders into another political attack on the FBI.

Students and teachers were justifiably outraged by the President’s attempt to turn the story into one about himself. Still, let’s assume — and it’s a massive assumption — for the sake of argument just to give the President every benefit of doubt that the Russia story is a hoax, there was no collusion and that it’s a political witch hunt. I know. I know, but bear with me for the moment.

Even in that context, Trump’s tweet about the FBI was callous and heartless at a time when, literally, some of the bodies still weren’t yet buried. It’s almost as if he’s incapable of real human empathy.

That, though, is an argument for another day.

This is an argument about a crisis that our Congress is, and has been, ignoring, and how we let them get away with it. It’s obvious that gun laws need to be strengthened. In an October Gallup poll that asked the question, “In general, do you feel that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict or kept as they are now?” 60 percent of Americans said gun laws should be made more strict. Only five percent said they should be less strict.

It was 55 percent more strict and 10 percent less strict in 2016 and 55 percent more strict and 11 percent less strict in 2015. Gallup has asked the same question 32 times since 1990. Only six times did less than 50 percent say more strict. Fifteen times, or nearly half of those 32 polls, respondents said more strict at a rate of 60 percent or higher. It was 78 percent in 1990, with only two percent asking for it to be less strict that year.

In the same Oct. 5-11, 2017 poll, 39 percent of Americans labeled themselves very dissatisfied with American laws and policies on guns, and 20 percent identified themselves as somewhat dissatisfied. That’s in contrast to 15 percent who are very satisfied and 24 percent who are somewhat satisfied.

Going back over the last few years, the numbers are essentially the same. In 2017, 42 percent were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied; 59 percent were somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. In 2016, it was 34 percent very or somewhat dissatisfied compared to 62 percent who were somewhat or very dissatisfied.

Yet, no action is ever taken, because your senators and representatives are paralyzed by fear by the NRA.

Americans of all political persuasions overwhelmingly disapprove of the job that Congress is doing. Currently, the Real Clear Politics average of all Congressional approval polls sees 73.0 percent disapprove of the job Congress is going and 16 percent approve.

And it is not poll bias. A Fox News poll on the topic has it 70 percent disapprove and 15 percent approve. A Gallup poll has it 81-15 disapprove/approve and Reuters/Ipsos has it 66/23 disapprove/approve.

Yet, these representatives continue to go to Congress and ignore the will of their voters, largely because we fail to participate.

According to the United States Election project, only 54.7 percent of the voting age population voted in the presidential election in 2016.

Not shockingly, the less educated one is, the less likely one is to vote. In 2016, the highest turnout was among voters with some post-graduate education or an advanced degree. Some college to college graduates were next, followed by high school graduates trailed by  those who have less than a high school education.

More than 80 percent of those with post-graduate eduction voted in 2016, while less than 40 percent of those without a high school degree voted.

As citizens, we have a responsibility to vote, but also to be informed. And far too many of us are blissfully ignorant and have no idea what the issues are.

If you want something done about these shootings, there is a surefire way to send a message to your Senator or representative in Congress: Vote. Research their positions and call their offices to register yours. If you don’t know who your Senators or your member of Congress is, put your street address and zip code into this form and it will tell you.

Call your Senators. Call your Congress person. Let them know your position.

And by God, when it’s Election Day, get off your ass and get out and vote.

If you don’t, you’re as much a part of the problem as any of the do-nothing politicians we rail against.

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