Mary Sue Gmeiner
We have a huge disconnect in this country – a disconnect between what We the People want and what our elected representatives choose to do. The prevalence of guns in our country is creating an unprecedented level of killing. At a minimum, laws should be passed to restrict assault weapons and to keep guns out of public spaces.
No matter what political party you belong to, no matter your race, your age, your economic status, your religion, Americans overwhelmingly support expanded background checks for gun buyers. And we support allowing law enforcement to temporarily seize weapons from troubled individuals. Yet previous sessions at the Ohio Statehouse have been slow to pass any kind of legislation that protects people from gun violence while at the same time expanding areas where guns can be openly carried.
Why is our democracy not working? Gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association and other gun rights associations have the same constitutional rights as we do, including the right to free speech. Since money has been defined by the Supreme Court as equivalent to free speech, these corporate entities can spend as much as they want. Because the law treats corporations, PACS, and other organizations as if they were people, money spent on behalf of or against candidates drowns out our voices.
Free speech rights also allow these artificial entities to lie, to mislead the public. The NRA rates legislators according to how sympathetic they are to the NRA’s values, and targets those who don’t line up, spending $412 million in 2016 on political activities. For example, though Sen. Marco Rubio had only received $4,950 directly from the NRA during his 2016 campaign, the lobbying group allegedly poured over $3M into efforts to get him reelected.
Money continues to have an influence on legislators. The Dickey Amendment, passed in 1996, effectively shut down research on gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the language was ambiguous, but the CDC feared losing funds if they conducted the research. In 2018 the language was more clearly defined. The CDC can indeed conduct research into gun violence, but cannot use government-appropriated funds to specifically advocate for gun control, and research money has not been included in the budget.
Free speech is not the only right of the Constitution that can get in the way of true democracy. The Supremacy Clause, which gives federal laws precedence over state laws, prevents any state or municipality from passing gun laws more restrictive than the federal laws.
The Commerce Clause in the Constitution allows for free trade between states; it is used by gun manufacturers to prevent states from restricting interstate shipments of guns.
These doctrines of “money as free speech” and “corporate constitutional rights” have been shaped over decades by decisions of the Supreme Court. They have made it impossible for our country to have a functioning democracy.
Move to Amend works towards a constitutional amendment that would overturn both of those doctrines. Our amendment language has been introduced into the Ohio House and Senate, and into the U.S. House of Representatives. Constitutional amendments aren’t easy, but this one is absolutely necessary if We the People are going to be able to make any headway at all. We need to get common sense gun reforms such as red flag laws and universal background checks. We need to pass police accountability and police transparency laws to hold police accountable when they act as judge, jury and executioner. We need bail reform, we need to end the school to prison pipeline, and we need many other reforms to our criminal justice system. Before any of these things can happen, we need to pass this Constitutional amendment.
To get involved, text AMEND to 38470 to sign our motion to amend the Constitution. Or you can sign at movetoamend.org.
Legislation is harder to get passed, media coverage is harder to obtain, every tool we have in our activist toolbox is hampered by these doctrines of corporate constitutional rights and money as speech.
Join our movement today to amend the Constitution and restore our democracy.