Can billionaires buy the disarmament of America?
It is a real and growing concern. Though other attempts to restrict guns at the federal level have failed during the Obama Administration, several states – including Connecticut – have successfully passed them – notably with the help of some very deep pockets and headline-grabbing media events.
The latest is Washington state, which just passed Initiative 594, intensifying background checks and placing strict limits on personal firearm transfers (and more), with nearly 60% of the vote. A competing Initiative 591, which would have prevented the state from having more extensive background checks than the federal level, failed with only 45%.
Most media coverage has hailed the gun control measure as a victory for the people, at last bypassing the stranglehold of the NRA over politicians who have blocked reforms:
A U.S. News and World Report story carried this quote:
“While the NRA may be able to intimidated legislators, it appears that they are unable to intimidate voters,” says John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. [sic]
A Seattle Times editorial stated:
ON the intractable issue of gun control, Washington voters have shot back.
Tuesday, voters took aim at the state Legislature’s inability last year to pass basic, public-safety-focused background checks. And they shot holes in the myth that the National Rifle Association, and its allies, represent the public interest.
The 3-to-2 margin in favor of I-594 indicates voters saw through the disingenuous argument made repeatedly by opponents of I-594 that background checks are the first step toward mass gun confiscation.
The Atlantic summarized its story with the subheader:
In Washington state, advocates passed some straightforward controls—by bypassing politicians terrified of the NRA and going straight to voters.
Gun control initiative 594 got a last minute bump from the tragic but conveniently timed school shooting in Marysville on October 24, driving sympathy and headlines to the issue about a week and a half before the election.
But the real push for I594 was from billionaires, including Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates, who dropped an overwhelming $10 million to support the gun control initiative, while opponents – including the ‘all-powerful NRA’ – spent only about half a million. Other Microsoft execs pitched in as well.
It certainly seems money talks. To sway another 2014 ballot initiative, Nevada resident and billionaire Sheldon Adelson shelled out some $5.5 million to successfully oppose Florida’s attempt to legalize marijuana.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reportedly spent as much as $50 million from his personal funds just on the 2014 elections, backing the Everytown for Gun Safety movement. Bloomberg has heavily backed Moms Demand Action, formed in response to the Sandy Hook shooting, as well as Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which he formed circa 2006.
Flush with tens of millions in commitments from Bloomberg and other wealthy elites, Moms Demand Action promised back in March 2013 to “punish” lawmakers resistant to gun control in 2014 with new money to push for gun legislation – and Washington state is now a prime example of the support for ballot initiatives that money can buy.
However, reports are floating the idea that this is just a test case of future gun control initiatives to come (Nevada may be next for Bloomberg).
The barrier to passing gun control legislation with 2nd Amendment supporters in Congress at both the national and state levels has a loophole. President Obama thinks his “pen and a phone” allows him to write laws via executive order; similarly, the big money behind that agenda has found another venue as well – propaganda aimed directly at the voters.
If the people can be persuaded to give up their own rights, after an election season barrage of ads, newspaper buys, editorials and other media blitzes, then billionaires who want rights restrictions for the masses can get their way.
Democracy in action? What about the rights guaranteed to individuals under the republic?