Earlier this month, Andover High School students visited my State House office on National School Walkout Day. Standing with peers across the nation on the front lines of the fight for gun control and their right to safety, these young activists were poised and passionate. What started out as a quick drop-in about legislation became a deep and powerful conversation about the role activists can play in ending gun violence and how to make real change. We discussed many ways to get involved, but kept coming back to the same issue: power in elections.
The National Rifle Association has a stranglehold on lawmakers. Despite the fact that it counts only a little over 1% of Americans as members, the NRA has managed to leverage powerful lobbying and fundraising operations. The organization spends millions of dollars every year to support political candidates, and millions more lobbying them once they are in office.
Lawmakers only respond to political pressure, the greatest pressure being re-election. Legislators across the country who take NRA money feel that they need to continue to support the NRA in order to get re-elected. But there is a way we can beat the NRA at its own game. The NRA has the money, but we have the people. We must make it clear that we will not support, vote for, or re-elect politicians who won’t work with us to make meaningful reforms on gun violence.
Hold politicians accountable in Washington and in your community. Campaign for people that support good gun policies, and unseat those that don’t by supporting their opponents and electing better leaders. Volunteer, make phone calls, send emails, get involved with races up and down the ballot, go to D.C. to lobby, get in the streets, and keep the pressure on.
Hunters and sportsmen are fine by me, but I proudly wear a D rating from the NRA. I have a proven record of being tough on guns, having voted for the assault weapons ban in 2004 and passing legislation to ban bump stocks that turn rifles into automatic weapons. Currently, I am working to legalize Extreme Risk Protective Orders (ERPOs), which could have prevented Parkland. ERPOs allow family members or law enforcement to obtain court orders to temporarily prohibit individuals from having firearms if they are proven to pose a significant danger to themselves or others. I am proud of what we have done in Massachusetts, but the battle does not end here.
You deserve a voice in Congress who will listen to your needs and fight for your future. I am eager to work with this new generation of leaders. Your activism and energy has already started to create tangible change. You are taking the reins, and I can’t wait to see where we go together.
State Senator Barbara A. L’Italien