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There is also no evidence Republicans in Washington are working hard

Portsmouth Herald - 2/25/2018

There is also no evidence Republicans in Washington are working hard, or really working at all, to address mental illness. If they truly believed the epidemic of gun violence afflicting our nation is the result of mental illness, you'd think they would be. But they're not. Instead, they are working hard to repeal the Affordable Care Act and have their sights set on Medicare and Medicaid - the medical insurance programs through which the majority of people suffering from mental illness receive treatment and coverage.

Republicans actually had an opportunity last year to address the connection between mental illness and gun violence and to do something about it. Instead, they made the problem worse. In February 2017, shortly after Donald Trump took office, the Republican House and Senate passed, and the president signed into law, H.J. Res 40, repealing an Obama-era regulation that added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database. The purpose of the Obama regulation, obviously, was to make it more difficult for people with mental illnesses to purchase guns. Mr. Trump and the Republicans made it easier.

The legislation had 120 Co-sponsors in the House, of which 119 were Republicans. It passed with the support of 229 Republicans while all but 6 Democrats voting against it. In the Senate, the bill passed with the support of 53 Republicans and all but 4 Democrats opposing it. This party line vote making it easier for mentally ill people to purchase weapons exposed the hypocrisy underlying professed Republican concerns about mental illness. It also exposed the hypocrisy behind the constant Republican refrain that we don't need new gun laws, we just need to enforce the laws already on the books. This law was on the books, and its purpose was simply to make sure that the national background check system had complete information. Republicans, at the behest of the gun lobby, nevertheless repealed it.

Did I mention during the 2016 election cycle the National Rifle Association contributed over $1 million to Republican candidates and just $10,000 to Democrats? And did I mention the NRA also spent $55,582,309 on so-called independent expenditures, consisting mostly of advertisements for or against candidates, and that $55,582,044 of this was spent on behalf of Republican candidates while only $265 was spent on behalf of Democrats? Does anyone really believe a political party supported by $56.5 million in NRA expenditures during a single election cycle is going to take action to protect Americans from gun violence? The question answers itself.

Finally, each time citizens call for action following yet another gun tragedy, Republicans not only offer thoughts and prayers but claim those speaking up are exploiting a tragedy for political purposes. What a load of nonsense. We speak because we are angry and saddened, because too many lives have been lost, and because we want something done.

Most Americans, like myself, support the Second Amendment but believe basic gun safety laws - like a national background check system - can save lives without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens. The Republican Party, on the other hand, has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA. If we are going to do anything about gun violence in America, we will need to start by defeating Republican candidates at all levels during the next election.

Joe Keefe is a former chairman of the NH Democratic Party who lives in Rye.


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