Want gun reform? Reverse Citizens United
© Greg Nash

When a gunman armed with a semiautomatic weapon and high capacity magazine opened fire on then-Rep. Gabby Giffords's (D-Ariz.) meeting with constituents on Jan. 8, 2011, he shot 33 bullets and wounded 19 people in less than 20 seconds.

Gabby was shot. I was shot. Six people died including a federal judge, a 9-year-old child and my deputy in the congressional office.

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Since that tragic morning in Tucson, nine people were gunned down while attending a prayer group in Charleston, South Carolina; 12 while watching a movie in Aurora, Colorado; 14 while attending a Christmas party in San Bernardino, California; 20 6- and 7-year-olds along with six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut; and 49 in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

And that doesn't include the hundreds of other people who were killed or physically or emotionally wounded in these and other mass shootings over the years. Thousands more die from gun violence every year.

Yet, even after each of these mass murders, Congress has done nothing to make us safer.

Members of Congress held moments of silence, gave floor speeches, and sent their thoughts and prayers. Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association (NRA), which essentially calls the plays for the Republican Party on gun issues, has decided meaningful gun safety measures won't move forward. No progress has been possible due to the influence of the gun lobby over members of Congress. The significant money it puts into supporting or opposing congressional candidates is the central reason for congressional inaction.

While communities try to figure out why these tragedies happened and how we can prevent the next one, Congress reacts by blocking commonsense reforms, bipartisan compromises and even minor legislative adjustments.

There's a reason accomplishing anything has become so difficult. Since the Supreme Court's ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, special interests like the NRA have been able to flood our elections with money. It's given them outsized influence and taken the voice away from the American people, who overwhelmingly support commonsense gun safety measures, such as comprehensive background checks or blocking terrorists from buying guns.

The NRA's political spending has tripled since the Citizens United decision in 2010. In 2014 alone, the NRA spent nearly $30 million to influence elections.

Worse, Citizens United has allowed a handful of billionaires to funnel millions of dollars to groups like the NRA for them to spend in elections. For example, the Koch brothers' network has given the NRA more than $10 million since 2010.

It's no wonder why the NRA opposes a constitutional amendment to end Citizens United and instructed members of Congress to vote against it.

It's happening on issues other than guns, as well. While American families and business owners wait for a fix to our immigration system, a modern infrastructure system, an energy plan that recognizes the value of renewables and a simpler tax code, Congress continues to dither.

This inaction is a product of the subtle corruption the Supreme Court overlooked in its Citizens United decision. While focusing solely on the quid pro quo, the court failed to see how big money delivers big results for special interests like the NRA. As a result, instead of bipartisan solutions, we are left with the least productive Congress in generations, unprecedented levels of partisanship, the highest disapproval ratings for Congress, and historic gridlock that is hurting our economy and our families.

Simply put, Congress won't take the bold action needed to solve our nation's largest challenges without serious campaign finance reform, beginning with the reversal of Citizens United.

To that end, I've taken action by joining an effort to overturn Citizens United and put an end to the unlimited, undisclosed money flowing into our elections. As a newly appointed member of the board of directors for End Citizens United, I'm part of the fight to put power back into the hands of the American people and limit the undue influence of billionaires and special interests groups like the gun lobby.

End Citizens United is a political action committee funded by grassroots donors. It's advocating for reform through a number of avenues, including a constitutional amendment, a full and functioning Supreme Court (which could hear a case to reverse the effects of Citizens United), and commonsense legislation to clean up our election laws.

It's also supporting free and fair election reform efforts on ballots in states across the country, and it supports candidates in key federal races who are in favor of meaningful reform of our campaign finance system and who will stand up against Citizens United. End Citizens United is standing up for candidates who are under attack by the special interests like the NRA, the Koch brothers and dark money groups who are out to protect the status quo, which benefits them and few others.

To date, more than a million-and-a-half of our members have taken action for reform and we continue to build support.

Our broken campaign finance system is at the root of Washington's problems. If we can fix this system, we'll open the door for progress on the major issues of our day — including passing commonsense laws that respect gun rights and can keep us safer.

Overturning Citizens United is the best way we'll be able to take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of another Orlando, Newtown or Tucson.

We need reform because the safety of our neighbors, our families and our children are at stake — and because the legacy of the lives we have lost and the survivors of these massacres demand nothing less.

Barber is a former Democratic member of Congress from Arizona. He is a board member of End Citizens United.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.