Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gun Control: Another Shameful Day for Washington as Background Checks Fail in the Senate




“They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.” Senator Gabrielle Giffords, nytimes.com.

Her article in the New York Times was in response to the Senate blocking very moderate gun control proposals to improve background checks on gun buyers on Wednesday. Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence, still has not recovered completely from the bullet that nearly killed her. As she said, speaking is still a challenge for her but feeling is not. She’s outraged at the cowardice and hypocrisy of Senators who voted against the proposals but had the temerity to then look her and mothers of victims in the eye.

Gifford was not only shot – the bullet went through her brain - she also witnessed the death of a friend and staff member Gabe Zimmerman who saw the shooter and ran towards the bleeding Gifford, right into the path of more gunfire. He was killed.

“I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.”

President Obama was equally devastated. At a press conference outside the Whitehouse, he stood with Joe Biden and families who had lost members to gun violence and said “All in all, today was a pretty shameful day for Washington. 

Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders -- not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children. And a few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn't worth it. They blocked common-sense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.”

He pointed out that 90% of Democrats supported the measure, but 90% of Republicans opposed it, despite that it was supported by 90% of Americans and that the measure was put together by a Democrat and a Republican, both gun owners and defenders of 2nd Amendment rights, both with NRA “A” grades. All this measure did was apply the background check laws that already apply to guns from a dealer to guns bought over the internet or at gun shows, so 60% of guns already go through that system. Yet the NRA spread the idea that the new measure would lead to a “big brother” kind of control scenario by the government.

But this effort is not over. I want to make it clear to the American people we can still bring about meaningful changes that reduce gun violence, so long as the American people don't give up on it. Even without Congress, my administration will keep doing everything it can to protect more of our communities. We're going to address the barriers that prevent states from participating in the existing background check system. We're going to give law enforcement more information about lost and stolen guns so it can do its job. We're going to help to put in place emergency plans to protect our children in their schools. 

But we can do more if Congress gets its act together. And if this Congress refuses to listen to the American people and pass common-sense gun legislation, then the real impact is going to have to come from the voters.”

One of the parents of a child who was killed in Sandy Hook, Mark Barden, who was there with his family, spoke very movingly before Obama did. He said any father in America could go through what he and his family are going through now. He talked about how this is a long road and that he and those he’s working with are disappointed but not defeated. “Everyday, as more people are killed in this country by gun violence, our determination grows stronger…Our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not.”

The grip that the NRA has on lawmakers in the US makes a mockery of everything America is supposed to stand for. But unless that electorate speaks out and acts, as Gifford and Obama have called for, nothing will change for the better.

It’s hard to know from the polls what Americans think. The polls pre the last election all predicted a Romney win most of the time. CNN was predicting it right up to the last moment. The Huffpost was the only one I saw that got it right.

But it doesn’t matter what people say in response to polls, it matters what they do. Enough people voted for Barack Obama twice in succession, so perhaps enough people will be motivated to stop electing Senators and Congressmen who represent corporate interest. It’s people like Barack Obama and Gabrielle Gifford, and those who support and vote for them who remind me that that element of America which is truly admirable does still exist.