Thursday, April 11, 2013

Republicans Unable to Stop Gun Control Debate in the Senate



On March 28 President Barack Obama hosted an event at the White House, to which he invited families of gun violence victims. He spoke about his commitment to improving gun control. “…if there is a step we can take that will save just one child, just one parent, just another town from experiencing the same grief that some of the moms and dads who are here have endured, then we should be doing it. We have an obligation to try.” (whitehouse.gov)

He warned about the resistance, saying “It’s not done until it’s done. And there are some powerful voices on the other side that are interested in running out the clock or changing the subject or drowning out the majority of the American people to prevent any of these reforms from happening at all. They’re doing everything they can to make all our progress collapse under the weight of fear and frustration – or their assumption is that everyone will just forget about it.”

If hardliner Republicans could have had their way they would have blocked the President from achieving his objective, but today the Senate voted 68-31 to open a debate on the proposals Obama has put forward to expand background checks for people buying guns online and at gun shows, further restrict gun trafficking and increase funding for school security. 16 Republicans, 50 Democrats and 2 Independents made up that majority.

This is just the beginning, but at least it’s a start. 29 Republicans and 2 Democrats tried to block this and they failed. The 2 Democrats are facing re-election in the pro-gun, conservative states of Arkansas and Alaska. Go figure. 

The measure has to be debated in the Senate – where it might end up being significantly amended - and then passed by Congress. It’s hard to be optimistic, especially in the light of Boehner’s comment that he wouldn’t promise a House Vote on any gun bill produced by the Senate. More sinister is an open threat the NRA made. “Given the importance of these issues, votes on all anti-gun amendments or proposals will be considered in NRA’s future candidate evaluations” wrote NRA chief lobbyist Christopher W. Cox in an open letter to Congress. (firstread.nbcnews.com)

Also, a group of Republican Senators have vowed to filibuster the bill by suggesting endless amendments and using up all the debate time allowed for each amendment. And they are supported by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted against even having a formal debate.

Have Republicans learned anything since their defeat? It seems not. After Obama was re-elected, there was a lot of talk within the ranks about how they would have to change if they wanted to retain support. It seems they have short memories. It’s hard to know what their idea of change was, but whatever it was it’s gone with the wind. What hasn’t changed, though, is that they still don’t have majority support amongst voters. The lastest poll by Wall Street Journal and NBC showed that 55% approved of stricter laws, as opposed to 34% who didn’t want the laws to change.

At some point they will discover that they can’t run a country when nobody votes them into power. By then it will be too late. Which can only be a good thing. In the meantime, kudos to President Obama for his continued efforts to restore America to sanity.  

But he can’t do it on his own, which he was very clear about on March 28. “If enough members of Congress take a stand for cooperation and common sense, and lead, and don’t get squishy because time has passed and maybe it’s not on the news every single day – if that’s who we are, if that’s our character that we’re willing to follow through on our commitments that we say are important – commitments to each other and to our kids – then I’m confident that we can make this country a safer place for all of them.” (whitehouse.gov)