Chris Honoré: A dereliction of duty
There are a number of issues confronting our nation that are being ignored by our Congress and the White House. Regarding two, most especially, the question is: Why?
A few brief examples: why do we as a people allow a weapon of war (the AR-15) to be sold at all? Why are universal background checks not required (including gun shows and online dealers)? Why has the DACA conundrum not been solved? It’s an easy ask and profoundly humane to eliminate the threat of deportation (morally reprehensible) for those brought here as children who now only yearn to be part of America, the only country they’ve ever known.
And there are two other issues that seem eminently solvable and yet remain elusive. They are also framed by the question: Why?
The first would be, why has the White House ignored what is essentially an all-hands-on-deck moment regarding Russia’s interference in our 2016 election? It’s not for lack of consensus by our intel agencies. Consider the intelligence report of 2017 that concluded that the Russians sought not only to influence our democratic process but had the nefarious intent of sowing chaos using spies and social media/bots as well as Russian troll farms.
Or refer to Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian spies and three companies that makes the case in a most chilling manner, absent equivocation.
According to our intel directors — Dan Coates, director of national intelligence; Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA; Christopher Wray, director of the FBI; Admiral Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency; and the heads of the Defense Intelligence Agency and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley and Robert Cardillo — America was blatantly attacked.
Collectively, they have appeared before Congress and stated unequivocally that the U.S. was targeted by Russia and, when asked, each stated that they have received no direct orders from the White House, meaning our commander in chief, to marshal any and all strategies to prevent Russia from taking “active measures” regarding our approaching midterm elections.
The question is: Why? What prevents Trump from calling together the above agencies and instructing them to put in place all measures at their disposal? Trump’s reluctance is inexplicable. As is his silence regarding the Kremlin. Speculation about this paralysis (and his refusal to implement congressionally approved sanctions against Russia) ranges from blackmail to his Russian investment portfolio.
And isn’t his unwillingness to act forcefully and decisively a violation of his oath of office and a dereliction of duty?
The second issue has to do with Congress and gun ownership in America. We know there are estimated to be more guns in our nation than people and that some 30,000 people die annually from gun violence in some form. So here is a fundamental ask: Why has Congress refused to allocate funding for the Centers for Disease Control to conduct research into gun violence and its impact on health and whether gun ownership has a positive or deleterious effect on the well-being of our citizens?
In the 1980s and 1990s research was underway by the CDC but was abruptly halted in 1996 when the NRA lobbied Congress to cut the CDC’s budget by the amount it spent on gun research (which was apolitical and framed only as scientific inquiry). That research has not been resumed, despite efforts to the contrary. In 2014 a letter was sent to Congress from 141 medical groups advocating that funding and research be resumed. The letter stated that medical professionals would address the devastating and long-lasting “physical and emotional effects of gun violence on victims, their families and their friends, but are hampered by the insufficient body of evidence-based research” that could be used to point communities toward proven gun violence prevention and policies.
Still Congress continues to block research that might offer insight into accidental shootings, firearm suicides, mass shootings, the efficacy of background checks, and firearm storage. As well, the CDC has reiterated that its research takes no political position; rather, it remains scientifically neutral. And yet Congress and the NRA reject any comprehensive investigation. Is this not a dereliction of duty?
And we do nothing. Why?
— Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.