In the middle of January, the San Francisco Labor Council (SFLC) (one of the most progressive labor associations in the country) passed a resolution to “End Gun Violence” that said “we join the demand that the government of the United States legislate that the importation, sale, purchase and possession of guns that are intended as weapons of war, including assault weapons and high capacity ammunition, be made illegal so that those weapons and material can be taken off the street.”
This resolution was initiated by my union, United Educators for San Francisco and as a result of the tragedy at Sandy Hook and other mass killings that have occurred (and continue to occur) in this country. There were parts of the resolution that were worthy of support including opposition to arming teachers in their classroom and a call for more services and support for students with disabilities. Still, I was alone as a delegate to the SFLC to express opposition to this resolution – it not only fails to address the real sources of violence in our society, but distracts our attention from the ways in which the state perpetuates its violence against working people, especially people of color.
Among progressives, there has been virtually unanimous support for legislation like this and many are counting on and urging President Obama and the Democratic Party to do something about ‘gun violence’ by passing some form of gun control legislation. The push from the liberals and the trade unions has been so overwhelming that many people who see themselves as fighting for social justice and a better world feel support for gun control is a ‘no brainer’. This is only confirmed by the fact that the only vocal opposition to gun control comes from the Right. Sensing its isolation, the Left has been largely silent on this issue and reluctant to oppose such resolutions outright.
Yet, the question remains can working people trust the Obama administration to be an ally to ending violence? A government and a Party that only one year ago violently repressed the Occupy encampments all over the nation, repressing the right of free speech and free assembly. A government that pushed a massive surge of soldiers, weapons and war-making in Afghanistan, and continues to keep torture chambers in Guantanamo Bay open. Can we really expect that such a government is interested in doing something about violence?