Some terrific people represent Jamaica Plain in the United States Congress. Oddly enough, that can be frustrating at times. When our team votes our way, but Congress itself doesn’t, what can we do?
Efforts to strengthen gun restrictions in the U.S. offer a classic case. Both of JP’s representatives in the House, Stephen Lynch and Michael Capuano, and our senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, all Democrats, are strong supporters of reasonable laws to reduce the catastrophic level of gun violence in our country today.
President Barack Obama is in favor and is said to be considering issuing an executive order after receiving thousands of letters and phone calls from the public in November.
Capuano and Lynch are among 70 co-sponsors of a House bill to expand background checks.
Warren and Markey voted for two gun control measures in the Senate on Dec. 3. Those protections—blocking people who are suspected terrorists from buying guns and expanding background checks—were voted down by narrow margins, mostly along party lines.
It’s maddening, but people here in JP who want gun control can broaden their efforts to the national level fairly easily these days. Thanking our local Congress people can be followed by joining one or more gun control support organizations, such as Democracy for America (DFA), Stop Handgun Violence, or groups listed here: bit.ly/1RIAIBY.
The DFA recently quoted author David Roberts, who wrote on Vox that, if national gun control legislation comes about, “it will be because the people who want it amass the political power to overwhelm the power of the gun lobby…”
With all House and some Senate seats (neither in Mass.) up for election next November, this is a good time to contact campaigns of people in favor of gun control out of state. Volunteering to donate or do phone-calling, fundraising, signing petitions, etc. for those candidates can have a big impact, even from a distance.
For example, Maggie Hassan (D), pro-control governor of New Hampshire, is running for Senate against anti-control incumbent Kelly Ayotte (R). A couple of working trips by Jamaica Plainers to New Hampshire (or other states) could end up helping save lives.
Other candidates to consider supporting include these pro-control Democrats running for open or anti-control people’s seats. Senate: Kamala Harris (California), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nevada) and Russ Feingold (Wisconsin). House: John Oceguera (also Nevada).
Advocating nationally for gun control can be tricky. Not all Democrats are in favor. It helps to search a candidate’s name online with “gun control” afterwards to find out where they stand.
To make a real difference, it is important to make direct contact with lawmakers’ (including the President) and candidates’ offices. In our representative system of government, that is the only way federal laws get enacted. Public education about issues is crucial, but there is plenty of general awareness of the gun topic already.
Speaking at a benefit for Health Law Advocates in Boston in October, Sen. Warren pointed out the positive voting record of Massachusetts Congress people on health care issues. She encouraged the large crowd to contact friends and relatives in other states to ask them to talk to their federal elected representatives. The same advice applies to how local residents can work on all national issues, including gun control.
Sandra Storey is founder and former publisher and editor of the Jamaica Plain Gazette. She is the co-author, with Georgia Mattison, of “Women in Citizen Advocacy: Stories of 28 Shapers of Public Policy” (McFarland & Company, Inc.).