Too often, lawmakers only realize that they are backing the wrong policies when they are confronted with the direct consequences of their actions or inaction.
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Following the mass slaughter of at least 18 of his constituents, Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) joined a long list of politicians who suddenly had a change of heart on a policy issue once it affected them personally.
In his case, the lawmaker flip-flopped on the need for an assault weapons ban. After having been one of the few Democrats in Congress who had voted with Republicans to resist such a ban, Golden now believes he was wrong.
“I have opposed efforts to ban deadly weapons of war like the assault rifle used to carry out this crime,” a reflective Golden told reporters not far from the scene of the massacre in Lewiston, ME. “The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles.”
His mea culpa earned him praise from fellow Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), who called Golden’s remarks “powerful, brave, and moving.”
Powerful, brave, and moving. This is leadership. Thank you, @RepGolden.
Our community stands with yours throughout this tragedy and in the work ahead. https://t.co/ApmCFQ2wVT
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 26, 2023
And he probably does deserve some commendation because it is difficult to acknowledge an error.
However, it also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that guns are the problem in the United States and that it is a terrible idea to turn just about any angry person into a potential mass murderer by giving him unfettered access to the weapons that allow him to easily do that.
What is especially troubling about people like Golden is that they only change their minds on something that is common sense once they — or their constituents, as in this case — have personally been affected.
We see this occasionally after gun massacres, when Republicans all of a sudden realize that blind adherence to their flawed interpretation of the Second Amendment is misguided.
And we saw it even more clearly in the case of gay marriage and LGBTQ rights when it dawned on Republicans that their own children might be gay and want to marry the person they love.
Conversely, Democratic leaders in northern states and cities are beginning to figure out that maybe immigration reform is needed as migrants start showing up at their doorsteps.
Ideally, these types of epiphanies would lead to compromise and actual solutions.
Sadly, in our divided society, that is not the case, especially because they are too few and far between.
Even worse, all of the people who are wrong about climate change, the greatest crisis of our lifetime and perhaps all of humanity, will never experience the full consequences of their inaction… but their children and grandchildren will.
With regard to guns, let’s just hope that the people like Golden who have been touched by such a massacre can find ways to explain to others that every American is just the blink of an eye away from finding themselves in the middle of a mass shooting.
And when they start flying, the bullets don’t care if they hit a Democrat or a Republican.