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Beware of the power of lobbyists

Off the fence
Beware of the power of lobbyists

Off the fence
Anton McNulty

The first reaction from the majority of people when they heard the news of the horrific deaths of twenty children and six women at Sandy Hook school in Connecticut in the US was how could this be allowed to happen. How could a 20-year-old get his hands on an assault rifle arm himself with hundreds of rounds of ammunition and carry out such a callous act.
Just like the Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurola and Jonesboro killings, the Sandy Hook massacre has focused attention once again on Americans ultra liberal gun laws. The right to hold arms is enshrined in the US Constitution and the American’s take this meaning to mean the right to have all sorts of guns, even those manufactured for armies.
In other countries which have experienced their own mass shootings, extra restrictions have been introduced almost immediately to ensure there are no repeats.
However, in the US despite the increasing numbers of mass shooting, there has been no support amongst politicians on Capitol Hill to limit the availability of firearms. This is a country where it is a right in some States to carry concealed arms in schools and on trains.
The talk in the media on both sides of the Atlantic is will the shooting of children under the age of six finally force politicians hands and change the gun laws. The answer from most political analysts is that very little will happen. The reason? The powerful gun lobby which have the majority of the politicians in their pocket.
Lobby groups all over the world are powerful bodies who are not very often seen or known by the general public but have the ear of the politicians in power. There are several examples of how lobby groups have prevented governments have developing certain policies just because it would not suit their interest.
The development of electric cars in the US were put on the back burner after pressure from the oil and motor lobbies while recently the UK government have decided to signal an end to onshore wind farms while deciding to go ahead with the fracking of Shale Gas.
Here in Ireland we have also seen the power of lobby groups and our own economic downfall is largely down to the power of the construction sector and their hold over the Fianna Fáil Governments. When the former junior Minister Róisín Shorthall advocated the banning of alcohol sponsorship, the drink industry was quick off the mark condemning the moves. Very soon, politicians were airing their concerns that such a move will mark the end of community festival and events without the sponsorship of alcohol companies. The proposal is unlikely now to go ahead.
While every group has the right to press their concerns to government, politicians have to show backbone to ensure their decisions are for the public good and not for the good of lobbyists and who they represent.