Sure, it was very simple and would have made only marginal improvement in violence reduction. Of course, we can characterize it as something that would have been nearly pointless. Still, the bill went down in defeat and it’s the best thing that could have happened.
Let’s start with what it was and what it was not. The vote was not on whether to close the so-called “gun show loophole” and require background checks for all sales of firearms. It was not a vote on whether to create a national registry of gun owners. It was not a vote on the Second Amendment. It was a vote on whether to override a Republican filibuster that was preventing even a discussion of the proposed background checks bill. The gun thumpers won and the rest of us lost.
That’s “lost,” as in putting something ahead of protecting our children. That’s “lost,” as in cowardice replacing courage. That’s “lost,” as in willfully refusing to do the job one was hired to do and even lying about it.
The lying is a big piece of what gets under our skin, because it violates our sense of right and wrong. Sometimes it’s covert, like Wayne LaPierre and his National Rifle Association forcing a watering down of the bill, then lobbying against it, saying that it’s too wimpy to accomplish anything. Slimy, sneaky stuff like that.
Sometimes the lying is overt, like saying that the bill would create a federal registry of gun owners, which they claim is the next step toward taking guns away from citizens. Ignore for the moment the good sense of knowing who has which guns. Focus on this simple fact: the proposed bill imposes a $15,000 fine on anyone attempting to create such a registry. That means that all the fools telling us that the bill would create a gun registry were either willfully ignorant or they were lying to us. How does that feel under your skin?
The 46 senators who voted against defeating the filibuster (same as blocking the bill from a vote) had their reasons. Perhaps some are true believers in the unintented-by-the-Framers meaning of the Second Amendment. Maybe they imagine that Second Amendment actually has something to do with anything other than the brand new United States of America needing an army in 1776 and not having the resources to equip it. Perhaps they get some kind of proud, testosterone rush and a swelling in their chests of patriotic fervor just by thinking about their right to own a semi-automatic Bushmaster assault rifle. Or maybe it was something else.
Maybe it was their share of the $25 million that the NRA spent on campaign contributions in 2012 and their fear that a challenger would get that money in the next election cycle. Maybe it was the direct and indirect money they benefited from due to the generosity of Colt Industries and the rest of those in the private citizen killing business. Maybe they figured that they’d get primaried by a screwball even more Neanderthal than they are, so they did what they did for “the greater good.”
All that rationalizing comes down to this: Those 46 senators decided that their careers are more important than the lives of our American children. They see their financial well-being following their senatorial days, as they shift to become highly paid lobbyists, as being more important than the 3.5 Americans who are killed by gun violence every hour of every day of every year.
And now you know. Now the 90% of Americans who want our communities to be safer know. And now we have the leverage to do something about it.
There will be a general election in just over 18 months. That is when we get to tell our legislators exactly how we feel about their cowardice, their self-centered focus and their contempt for the American people.
That is when we get to elect people who will scrap the pitiful bill that was just rejected and replace it with a bill that has a hope of beginning to reduce American gun violence. We can enact legislation that will require background checks on all transfers of firearms, even those between Grandpa and grandchild, because one of those grandchildren might be like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Columbine infamy. We can enact legislation that denies assault weaponry to child killers in Newtown, CT. We can eliminate 33-round clips and 100-round drums of ammunition that were so deadly in a movie theatre in Aurora, CO. And we can even do something positive to help our mentally ill citizens.
Here’s how Gabby Giffords puts it:
“Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s. To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.”
That is why this cowardly filibuster override failure is the best thing that could have happened.
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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