The US Senate Decides Guns are More Important than People
Courtesy Marquil at Empirewire.com
Do you think that the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees an unrestricted right to bear arms?
Does the 2nd Amendment guarantee the right of paranoid schizophrenics or clinically diagnosed psychopaths to bear arms?
Does the 2nd Amendment guarantee a toddler’s right to bear arms?
Does the 2nd Amendment guarantee the right of felons to bear arms?
Does the 2nd Amendment guarantee the right to own a tank? A drone? A rocket-propelled grenade launcher?
None of the above are rhetorical questions. I’m absolutely serious.
Does anything in the Constitution guarantee my right – your right – not to be shot? How about the kids from Sandy Hook or the moviegoers in Aurora?
Do you think that the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution is also absolute and unrestricted in any way? You’d be wrong. There are plenty of government restrictions on speech that have been ruled constitutional. You’re not allowed to incite a riot or libel someone, for instance.
And so it is that, although 90% of Americans support universal background checks for dealer and gun show sales, the United States Senate Wednesday night was unable to defeat a Republican-led filibuster of the Manchin-Toomey Amendment. Drafted by a conservative Republican and a conservative Democrat, the amendment would have implemented background checks to prevent homicidal maniacs and felons from legally obtaining guns.
This new gun control initiative was brought about in response to the Sandy Hook massacre, where 20 little boys and girls were mowed down by a lunatic. One of the biggest efforts was to close the gun show loophole, to make sure that those sales are subject to the same background checks that retail sales undergo. Yesterday on Facebook, people argued to me that implementation of this statute would not have prevented Sandy Hook. But that’s a disingenuous argument – it’s too late for that, and you can’t retroactively prevent anything. I brought up that Australia and the UK implemented stringent gun control in response to their school massacres, and have seen none since. Someone brought up a shooting of 12 in Cumbria that took place in 2010 – the first mass shooting in the UK since the 1996 Dunblane massacre. In the US, we have mass shootings much, much more frequently than that, and we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. After Dunblane, the UK effectively banned handguns.
England and Wales see .7 gun homicides for every 100,000 people. Scotland has no data. Australia has .14 homicides per 100,000 of population. Canada sees .51 homicides per 100,000 people. By contrast, the United States has 3 gun homicides per 100,000 people. That doesn’t count accidental deaths and suicides. The United States has 5% of the world’s population, and close to 50% of the small arms. Access to guns and ammo are not at risk or adversely affected.
The legislation, written by Toomey and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), was the centerpiece of gun control efforts in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shootings. It was supposed to be the breakthrough that led to the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. But it only picked up a few senators and hardened the opposition of many. A last-ditch effort by Democrats to win over skeptical senators by offering new concessions fell apart late Tuesday.
About nine out of 10 Americans support universal background checks, according to polls. The failed vote reflects the enduring power of the National Rifle Association, which opposed the bill and threatened to target lawmakers who voted in its favor.
“Today, the misguided Manchin-Toomey-Schumer proposal failed in the U.S. Senate,” the NRA’s top lobbyist Chris Cox said in a statement issued immediately after the vote. “As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools.”
Centrist senators who were courted eventually revealed their opposition to the proposal this week, making it all but clear by Wednesday that it lacked the votes to pass. Opponents voiced gripes ranging from an alleged infringement on Second Amendment rights to the more far-reaching — and inaccurate — claim that the legislation would set up a national gun registry.
So, the NRA defeated the will of 90% of the people, and prevented a vote from being held on the amendment. The United States congress cannot pass a law without 60% of the Senate, and that’s not how our system is supposed to work. Of course, in 1999 – after Columbine – the NRA supported universal background checks. What’s changed? Why must 90% of America succumb to the will of a small lobby representing a small number of people?
A lunatic shoots up a school, and the Senate filibusters a reasonable and constitutional gun control bill drafted by two conservatives.
Moments ago, the U.S. Senate decided to do the unthinkable about gun violence — nothing at all. Over two years ago, when I was shot point-blank in the head, the U.S. Senate chose to do nothing. Four months ago, 20 first-graders lost their lives in a brutal attack on their school, and the U.S. Senate chose to do nothing. It’s clear to me that if members of the U.S. Senate refuse to change the laws to reduce gun violence, then we need to change the members of the U.S. Senate.