Recently we marked the six-month anniversary of the tragedy at Newtown Elementary School, where 20 children and six teachers were murdered. After that tragedy. millions of Americans began talking about common sense gun reform, include Randi Weingarten (President of AFT) and Lily Eskelsen Garcia (Vice President of NEA).
Randi represents the nearly 1.5 million educators and public employees, including those who worked at Sandy Hook. I recently heard her speak in support of common sense gun reforms, and relating what happened in Newtown. She highlighted the heroism of the six AFT educators who gave their lives in attempt to protect the children. And then she told the story of a teacher who was locked arm in arm with her student at the time of their deaths. Even in her last moments, the teacher was trying to protect her student.
After Randi went public with her strong support of gun reforms, she received considerable kickback from the National Rifle Association (NRA). That is not going to stop her. When I heard her speak, she told the crowd, “I am glad to be on the list of people they (NRA) hate.”
One of the initial responses to the Newtown tragedy that popped up in state legislatures across the country is this idea that we should ‘arm’ our teachers. The NRA likes to say that ‘the only way to stop a bad guy is a good guy with a gun’.
Lily Eskelsen Garcia completely rejects this idea. Lily represents over three million educators nationwide. As she phrased it, “People that would put our children, teachers, and janitors at risk do not deserve their office.”
Both Randi and Lily have applauded the efforts of Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Pat Toomey – who have both come under attack from the NRA. We need to show our support to these brave Senators who have both been willing to take on the NRA. At the same time we need to continue to push back against those Senators – like Kelly Ayotte – who voted against comprehensive and enforceable background checks. Hold your Senators accountable to the voters, not the NRA.
The Manchin-Toomey bill focused on common sense gun reforms: closing loopholes in current law and require background checks on all commercial gun sales. Some states already require these harmless background checks, but not all. Those states that do not require background checks allow people to buy guns at gun shows or via the internet, without any background check at all. Comprehensive and enforceable background checks would help to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mental ill.
As Steven Maloney, president of the 168-member Manchester Patrolman’s Association, recently told the Union-Leader:
“We feel as a police patrolmen’s association that background checks are something that will keep us safer, the community safer. Most of us are gun owners, so we do believe in the Second Amendment.”
But why isn’t the rest of the labor movement more involved in this fight for common sense gun reforms? Where are the other police unions who predominately push for tighter gun control? Is it because too many people are buying the lies from the NRA that ‘Obama wants to take your guns’?
These reforms are not about taking your guns away. These reforms are about ensuring that responsible gun owners have the ability to purchase weapons while keeping criminals from obtaining them.
The NRA is famous for twisting the message when it comes to guns. We are talking about how to stop tragedies like Newtown from happening again. Their response: “buy more guns and arm the teachers”. What does selling more guns and arming teachers do to prevent dangerous people from obtaining guns? NOTHING! Every answer the NRA gives leads to the sale of more guns.
Do you honestly think that this is about the Second Amendment? Do not be fooled. This is about the NRA using the Newtown Tragedy and fear to sell more guns. They are standing in the way of passing legislation that will help prevent the wrong people from obtaining guns.
I am glad to see that Randi, Lily and Steven have used their position as labor leaders to help push for this common sense legislation. Randi has even encouraged many of the AFT locals to pull their retirement funds from any gun manufacturers.
Labor unions need to use their collective voice to call for common sense gun reform. We are talking about the safety of the public. We are talking about the safety of our public workers. I would love to see more police and public sector unions come voice their support for the Manchin-Toomey bill. Their support would make a strong impact and could be the push that the bill needs to pass the Senate.