Aug 28, 2014 Daniel Faris, 1-800-POLITICS

Things are about to get interesting for the National Rifle Association: Bill Gates has set his sights on the NRA and their opposition to stricter gun control.

Whenever Bill Gates gets involved in politics or social issues, the world tends to sit up and take note. Things should be no different now that he’s chosen to donate $1 million to Initiative 594, which would impose a mandatory criminal background check for every firearm purchase, regardless of where it’s sold.

There’s no doubt that the NRA and the rest of the gun lobby has a great deal of power on their side, but Gates is hardly the first activist to throw his weight behind efforts to oppose them. Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, has also vowed to take part in gun control campaigns.

As for Gates himself, it remains unclear whether his donation is a one-time thing or if it’s part of a larger and more organized effort, of which we’ll see more in the coming months. In the past, the issues Gates has championed have received a great deal of effort and behind-closed-doors dealings; when he got involved with education reform, for example, he constructed a dedicated network of semi-hidden organizations to help influence policy and get his reforms pushed through both local and national courts.

That’s all well and good, but it does beg the question: should a businessman, however well-intentioned, be allowed to hold that much sway in our government’s deliberations?

While it’s true that Gates has made these many donations through his charitable organizations, rather than writing checks with the word Microsoft on them, there’s no doubt about where the money is coming from: Gates is using the billions he made leading one of the world’s largest software companies to influence politics on a national level.

A betrayal of democracy, or perfectly acceptable? It depends on who you ask.

At any rate, it’s business as usual. If there’s one thing our politicians are good at, it’s lending their ear to anyone with deep enough pockets.

But back to gun control. Right now there’s a measure of uncertainty and even confusion about the current state of gun laws in the country. Certain states, like Pennsylvania, have remarkably lax gun control laws; almost anyone can go buy a gun from their local Walmart with (almost) no questions asked. The neighboring state of New York, meanwhile, has downright draconian laws concerning the purchase of firearms and ammunition.

For right now, it’s clear that law firms across the country are going to have a field day helping their clients wade through the confusing mess that is the state of gun control laws in the US.

However you may feel about guns, or the parties involved in shaping the laws that govern their sale and use, it’s clear that one of the best things we could do would be to inch closer to having a unified, straightforward, and nationwide gun control policy. That two neighboring states should have such dramatically different gun laws on the books is patently absurd.