Opinion: Cowards in Congress

By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

It’s not as if they are stupid. It’s not as if they do not read the newspapers. But a significant number of powerful members of Congress have proven to be utterly unresponsive and impotent in the face of the gun carnage going on in American cities almost every week. Worse than that, they are craven.

They proved it again last week.

Repeated mass murders are being committed by deranged individuals with military grade assault weapons.

They are perpetrating these atrocities out of some twisted ideology, warped personal grudges, or delusions. And our leaders of Congress are nowhere to be found. They are AWOL. They denounce the criminals, pray for the victims and walk away. Then it’s back to business as usual, which means bowing to the self-serving gun lobby and its supporters who are making a fortune from the sale of firearms.

Last week more than a dozen innocent bystanders were gunned down in a San Bernadino office building for the disabled. They were male, female, black, white, Asian and Hispanic. Hundreds of bullets fired into a crowd in a matter of seconds do not discriminate. The week before, three persons were shot to death in a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado. These massacres are accomplished with easily and legally bought high powered assault weapons, again and again!

And if there are evildoers coming into this country with the intent of committing murder and mayhem, why would we not want to prevent them from accessing the means to carry out these despicable acts of violence?

In the face of that question, the United States Senate just days ago voted down a proposed ban on the sale of weapons to persons on the FBI terrorist watch list. The NRA is cheering that action while more families are burying their dead.

I have repeatedly said on this page that a ban on the manufacture and sale of these battlefield weapons for commercial and personal use is the obvious response. It will not end all homicides but it will considerably lessen the lethality.

We may never be able to stop insanity or hate from taking hold, but we can stop the haters from carrying out their malevolent violence on a large scale.

But the cowards of Congress will not buck the gun lobby and the wealthy gun manufacturers who underwrite them. The cowards of Congress will not stand up to their constituents and tell them the truth that these military style assault weapons do not belong in the woods to hunt deer, and certainly not in our communities and on our streets to murder people.

They know better or should. How many more lives must be destroyed by gun violence before Congress musters the will to join the overwhelming majority of Americans and declare finally that enough is enough?


On a more local matter, I am saddened by the conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. We served together in the Assembly for 28 years. He was my colleague and friend. Our districts abutted one and other and we did much work together. His dedication to his community was unparalleled and he did much good for the entire state during his 21 years as Assembly speaker.

Somewhere along the way his desire for personal enrichment overwhelmed his good judgment and he now stands convicted of corruption. I am at a loss.

The public has a right to expect nothing less than honest fidelity to the principles of good government from their elected officials. Sheldon Silver violated that trust.

I hope that this case reminds all government officials that they are public servants and must adhere to the highest standards of integrity.

I pray that the immense good that my friend accomplished during his career will remain a part of his legacy.

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