The massacre in Newtown, Conn last December in which 20 first-graders and six staffers were murdered was a brutal wake-up call to our nation and the world. In the wake of this tragedy millions of Americans called for an end to the madness, and President Obama and Vice President Biden promised to promulgate a comprehensive proposal to address our national epidemic of gun violence. This past Thursday, standing amid 21 mothers who have lost children to shootings, our President urged our nation to pressure lawmakers to back what he calls the best chance in more than a decade to tame firearms violence.
Unfortunately, while political momentum favoring responsible gun control reached a crescendo in the weeks following the Newtown massacre, it has flagged as the Senate prepares to debate gun restrictions next month.
Quoting from an article in yesterday’s Daily Star: “Thanks to widespread Republican resistance and a wariness by moderate Democrats from southern and western states – including six facing re-election next year – a proposed assault-weapons ban appears doomed and efforts to broaden background checks and ban high-capacity ammunition magazines are in question.”
At the heart of the Obama – Biden strategy is a proposal to expand federal background checks to private sales at gun shows and on-line sales. While background checks are required when guns are purchased from licensed dealers, some 40 percent of all gun sales take place in “person to person” transactions conducted at gun shows and over the internet - where no background checks are required.
Recent polls have repeatedly shown that the majority of Americans favor requiring background checks for all gun sales; those favoring universal background checks include a majority of NRA members.
The National Rifle Association, however, staunchly opposes expanding the background check requirement. The reason why the NRA is so vehemently opposed to expanded background checks is easy to decipher – all one needs to do is follow the money. Rather than espousing the wishes of the majority of its membership, the NRA remains beholden to the gun manufacturers, from whom it receives the lion’s share of its support. That being the case, it is not terribly surprising that the NRA leadership will not rest until every man, woman, child, dog and cat in this nation is “armed to the teeth”!
Upcoming Senate vote
Democratic sponsors within the Senate will most likely need a super-majority of 60 votes to prevail. Why the super-majority requirement is being imposed is totally beyond me; that requirement, however, will pose a daunting hurdle since Democrats have just 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats, plus two Democratic-leaning independents. And sponsors of the expansion proposal cannot rest assured that all Democratic senators will back the proposal. Witness the following quote from Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) earlier this week: “I do not need anyone from New York City to tell me how to handle crime in our state. I know that we can go after and prosecute criminals without the need to infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding North Dakotans.”
Open letter to Senators McCain and Flake
As polls repeatedly indicate that the majority of Americans favor background checks for ALL gun sales, it is difficult to fantom why this common-sense measure is in jeopardy of passing on the Senate floor. In light of this reality, we must implore all Senators to support its passage. Toward that end I am sharing with you the following open letter to our two Arizona senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake:
Senator John McCain
Senator Jeff Flake
Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20002
Subject: Gun Background Checks
Dear Senators McCain and Flake:
Last December’s massacre in Newtown, Conn in which 20 first-graders and six staffers were murdered was a brutal wake-up call to our nation and the world. In the wake of this tragedy millions of Americans and governmental leaders at all levels are calling for decisive action to stem our nation’s epidemic of gun violence.
As you are aware, our President’s proposal for universal background checks to apply to all gun sales is currently under debate in the Senate. Recent polls have repeatedly shown that the majority of Americans favor universal background checks, a common sense measure that is totally in keeping with Second Amendment provisions concerning the right to bear arms. Indeed, those supporting universal background checks include the majority of NRA members.
As Arizonans, we are still recovering from the tragic shooting in Tucson on the morning of January 8, 2011 that took the lives of six innocent people and injured 19 others. We are deeply saddened that this senseless shooting cut short the political career of a brilliant Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, a highly effective and compassionate public servant with a heartfelt commitment to reaching across the aisles to make things work.
Senators McCain and Flake, decency demands that we honor the victims of the Newtown and Tucson shootings and their families members, together with the 32,000 Americans who die each year due to gun-related violence and accidents. In this spirit I urge you to lend your wholehearted support to passage of the Senate proposal for universal background checks applying to all gun sales.
John Newport, PhD
Author: The Tucson Tragedy: Lessons from the Senseless Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords
Tucson Citizen Columnist “Healing Tucson and Our Nation”
A call to action
Gaining senate approval is the necessary first step toward enacting the President’s proposal for universal gun sale background checks. It is critically important that we do everything possible to gain the full support of this measure from our two Arizona senators.
Accordingly, I urge you to contact the offices of both senators TODAY urging them to support this vitally needed legislation. If you wish to reference this column in your email, the link is http://tucsoncitizen.com/healing-tucson/2013/03/30/gun-checks-an-open-letter-to-sens-mccain-flake/
Below is the contact information for both senators:
Senator John McCain, access email contact form via www.mccain.senate.gov
Senator Jeff Flake, access email contact form via www.flake.senate.gov
Let’s stand up and make our voices heard!