This year, the executive vice president and longtime CEO of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, stood behind the NRA podium emblazoned with the logo "NRA: Celebration of American Values." Today, as we attempt to absorb the values found in the Second Amendment in relation to the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the death of 20 children, it is difficult to understand to what values the NRA is referring. Is it gun ownership in America or the lives of 20 children?
The executive director of the NRA has become a more powerful leader when it comes to the Second Amendment than the entire U.S. Congress. Our 100 senators and the 435 members of the House of Representatives are afraid to take on the issue of gun control in any form based on their fear of the NRA and its powerful gun lobby. Unelected, yet more powerful than any elected member of Congress, Wayne LaPierre controls the United States when it comes to guns.
In 1989, as the police chief of Aurora, Ill., I supported Sarah Brady and worked to stop the sale of bullets that were designed to penetrate the body armor worn by police officers. Under the direction of Wayne LaPierre, over 800 NRA members wrote letters to the local politicians in Aurora. The political power of an unelected person clearly pushed local elected officials to the sidelines.
As America faces the so-called "financial cliff," Republican members of Congress having signed a no tax increase pledge, created by Grover Norquist, have placed themselves on the sidelines. Grover Norquist is an unelected leader that has many members of Congress by the neck.
To govern effectively, elected members of Congress need tools. When they pledge away their tools and thereby abdicate their responsibility; who is the leader? Is it Grover Norquist, an unelected person with a pledge in hand, or U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch a pledge signer? It was a clever ploy. Those signing the pledge did not expect to be on the brink of the "cliff."
If they support the majority of Americans, who clearly want a tax increase for those making over $250,000, they will violate their pledge. If they do, the pledge will be wrapped tightly into a club with which they will be beaten. More concerned about their reelection and political future than the country, they are pushed to the sidelines.
More telling than these contemporary issues is the simple fact that South Carolina Sen. James DeMitt relinquished his elected U.S. Senate seat to become the president of a conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. In departing the U.S. Senate DeMitt clearly stated, "I can be more effective on conservative issues as the president of the Heritage Foundation."
From gun control and the on-going slaughter of Americans through gun violence to the abdication of political responsibility by signing away their budgeting tools, elected members of Congress have substantially less power than the unelected tyrants of single issue politics. Over the past 10 years, I have been training police departments in Poland, Albania, and Nigeria on how to police effectively in a democracy.
With unelected people gaining more influence and power than any elected official, it is becoming more and more difficult to market America's current form of democracy.
As a matter of fact, it seems almost un-American to have CNN's Piers Morgan, a British subject, leading the charge for gun control in the United States.
Robert C. Wadman is professor, emeritus, Criminal Justice Department, at Weber State University.