Yesterday, April 17, will go down as one of the saddest days in our nation’s history. Senate Republicans, and a handful of Democrats, banded together to kill the most far-reaching gun control legislation in two decades.
By far the most heart-breaking outcome was the defeat of the Toomey-Manchin compromise proposal for expanded background checks. Knowledgeable gun control supporters, myself included, have known for some time that the measures calling for restoration of the assault weapons ban and limiting the size of magazine clips were doomed to failure. We had reason to be hopeful, however, concerning prospects for passing the background checks proposal.
When push came to shove, however, the carefully crafted bipartisan proposal by Senators Toomey (R-Pa.) and Manchin (D-W.Va.) was defeated by a voting block consisting of all but four Senate Republicans and five Democrats who chose to break rank. Ironically, both Senators are viewed as conservatives within their own respective parties.
The one bright spot emerging from yesterday’s voting was the courageous decision of Arizona’s own Sen. John McCain to break rank and join three other Republicans in voting in favor of expanded background checks. Unfortunately his colleague Sen. Jeff Flake, cast a No vote, presumably caving in to pressure from vocal guns rights extremists.
Gun control advocates speak out
Seated in the Senate spectator gallery, Patricia Maisch, who helped disarm Jared Lee Loughner during the January 8, 2011 shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, shouted down to the Senate floor “Shame on you!” Roxanna Green, mother of 9-year old Christina Taylor-Green who was killed in the Tucson shooting, told reporters “I can’t believe we’ve come down to this.” Knowing full well that she will never have her precious daughter back, she vowed to continue to fight until reforms are made, stating “We’re in this to the end – It’s not going to stop us.”
Speaking on behalf of the people of Connecticut, where 20 children six adults who brutally slain by a gunman last December, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) exclaimed “There’s never been a bigger disconnect between where the American public is on an issue and where the Senate ended up.” His colleague, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), added “Tragically, it may take more mass killings!”
Sen. Joe Manchin, co-sponsor of the bipartisan background checks proposal, vowed to continue talking to other senators concerning whether additional changes could be made to attract their votes. Speaking at a breakfast sponsored by The Wall Street Journal, he proclaimed that the proposal would have succeeded if the Senate had taken it up quickly after the Newtown shootings.
Speaking at a White House press conference, flanked by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Neil Heslin, father of a 6-year-old Newtown victim, President Obama decried the Senate votes, stating that “This was a pretty shameful day for Washington.” Speaking from the nation’s Capitol, Carlee Soto, younger sister of slain Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher Vicki Soto, stated “We elected these people – I have no idea whose voice they were speaking for today.” Indeed, recent polls have shown that the preponderance of Americans, including the majority of NRA members, favor expanded background checks (see “Recommended Reading” below).
NRA’s unholy alliance
As stated in a recent post, the National Rifle Association is staunchly opposed to any efforts to promote responsible gun control, including the expanded background checks bill, which would have closed the loophole exempting purchases at gun shows conducted between “private parties”. Gun show purchases, together with internet sales which are also predominantly exempt from background checks, constitute 40 percent of all gun sales!
Flying in the face of the majority of its members, who reportedly favor background checks on all gun sales (see “Recommended Readings”), the NRA remains vehemently opposed to all gun control proposals in deference to the gun manufacturers, from whom the organization derives the lion’s share of its financial support. That being the case, I am convinced that the NRA leadership will not rest until every man, woman, child, dog and cat in this nation is “armed to the teeth”.
Arguably, the NRA is the most powerful interest group in the nation. Indeed, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle count on support from the NRA when election time approaches, as they see this as constituting the difference between winning and losing. Sadly, in recent years growing numbers of Democratic contenders for office have chosen to bend over backwards to appease the NRA in their bid for election or re-election.
Obviously the gun show operators are staunchly opposed to expanded background checks as the freedom to buy guns without background checks constitutes a major draw for gun show attendees.
Concerning the sensibility of gun show operators, I was appalled that in January, 2012, Crossroad America chose to operate a well-attended gun show in Tucson on the very weekend that marked the first anniversary of the horrific shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others – a massacre that claimed six innocent lives.
A request for civil dialog
Sadly we live in a nation and a world marked by an increasing escalation of wanton violence. I believe that the frightening spread of violence across our planet coincides with the erosion of wholesome qualities, including good manners and common decency, that most of us were brought up to adhere to.
As a “Christian Buddhist” I have a great deal of respect for the biblical admonition to “beat our swords into plowshares”. By the same token, I have no desire to tamper with valid Second Amendment protections under our Constitution concerning the right to bear arms. As is the case with millions of other gun control advocates, I am simply seeking to bring people together to stem the ceaseless violence and mayhem through promoting responsible debate and dialog concerning the adoption and enforcement of responsible gun control measures.
In this column I have attempted to present my views in a responsible and respectful manner. I am aware that many readers may choose to disagree with my views on this particular subject. I submit, however, that no good purpose is served by inflammatory rants and name-calling. In this spirit, I invite you to join me in a mutually respectful dialog concerning this vitally important issue. Let’s strive to learn from one another!
John Newport (Dr. John)
Associated Press/Arizona Daily Star, “Senate defeats major gun curbs”, April 18, 2013.
Associated Press “Gun-control backers: Senate defeat won’t stop us”, April 18, 2013.
The Truth-O-Meter “Says 90 percent of Americans and 74 percent of National Rifle Association members support background checks for gun purchases”. April 4, 2013 (www.politifact.com).
Walter Hickey, “Here’s Who the NRA REALLY Represents”, Business Insider. December 19, 2012. (www.businessinsider.com)