This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.
Ever since the Founding Fathers guaranteed citizens the right to petition their government, lobbyists have actively sought to influence how laws are made. This is part of the indispensable give and take between the governed and the government. But when a single-interest group can dictate the terms of legislation unrelated to its cause and hold the proposal hostage, the result is unhealthy for democracy.
Witness the current standoff over whether to give the District of Columbia long-denied voting rights, which has fallen victim to the powerful gun lobby. One does not have to be an avid supporter of D.C. voting rights – constitutional experts are divided – to conclude that the National Rifle Association is exercising too much power when it brings the legislative process to a halt by targeting this issue and its supporters in Congress.
At first, the voting-rights bill was expected to sail through Congress. But the NRA hates the capital's strong gun-control law. So NRA lobbyists made it clear to lawmakers that the voting-rights bill should include a provision to overturn the law. The Senate, whose members are well aware of what can happen when they tangle with the NRA, voted overwhelmingly to add the gun-rights proposal to the legislation.
In effect, they decided that the wishes of the NRA must be obeyed without question. Even if it means overruling local citizens who believe that they, rather than special interests, have the right to decide local gun-control practices for themselves. Even if it means that the District of Columbia's 589,000 citizens will remain without a voting member in Congress, and thus effectively disenfranchised.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.