I was reading our local newspaper this morning when I came across a few lines buried in a news article which made my jaw drop. I rubbed my eyes and read it again. The print was the same and I had read it right the first time. It essentially said that Senate Republicans had voted down by a 45-54 mostly party line vote a bill offered by Dianne Feinstein (D-California) which would have denied individuals on the terror watch list the right to buy firearms. (One Republican and one Democrat crossed party lines and voted with the other side.) Senate Republicans also voted down another bill by one of their own, John Cornyn (R-Texas), by a similar margin which would have delayed for 72 hours the sale of firearms to those on the terror watch list – for due process.
Did Republicans really protect the rights of potential terrorists to buy weapons which they might be used to murder us? They can’t fly in airplanes with us, but they can buy guns? Now that is hard to believe. Thinking perhaps there was a misprint in the newspaper, I checked several news websites. Nope, the story was accurate. Wow! You would think that passing such bills would be a no brainer. I would have predicted they would have been approved by the Senate by a 99-0 margin. Shows what I know.
If you need further proof that the National Rifle Association owns Congressional Republicans, you need look no further that this stupidity because it follows the NRA’s party line: Allow no legislation to pass (no matter how reasonable) which in any way infringes on the right of individuals to own and operate firearms because once you do that it is a slippery slope to total gun control. The phrase in parenthesis is mine.
However, this is not a great deal more outrageous than failures by Congress to pass a requirement for universal background checks on all gun sales. Anyone buying a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer, such as your local gun store, must undergo a background check before purchasing a weapon. However, a terrorist or mentally unstable person can go to a gun show and purchase an AR-15 or AK-47 without submitting to a background check, showing an ID, or even having the purchase recorded.
Generally Senators and Congressman voting against stricter gun control legislation sight hunting and the need of citizens to protect life and property as reasons for their votes. However, after a band on assault weapons and large capacity magazines was allowed to expire in 2004, Republican lawmakers have beaten back numerous attempts to reinstate the ban. Yet no one can adequately explain why a hunter or some trying to protect himself and/or his family needs a semiautomatic AR-15 with a 40 round magazine. On the other hand, the AR-15 outfitted with high capacity magazines have been the weapon of choice of mad men and terrorists shooting up movie theaters, schools and social gatherings.
The NRA provides generous campaign contributions to candidates for the Senate and House positions who have pledged to tow the NRA line and much of the NRA revenue comes in one form or another from the big gun manufacturers. However, the biggest hold that the NRA has on members of Congress is fear. According the Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s president, the organization has 4.5 million members and “tens of millions of supporters”. If you represent a red state or a Republican dominated district in Congress and dare to defy the NRA with your vote, during your next election you will find your Congressional seat contested by a well funded, NRA backed opponent.
However, the NRA grip on Congress may be slipping somwhat. The Pew Research Center released a national poll conducted July 14-20 which found that 85% of Americans, including 88% of Democrats and 79% of Republicans, favor expanding background checks. The poll also found that majority of Americans (57%) also favors a ban on assault weapons. 79% favor measures to ensure that the mentally ill cannot access firearms while 70% favor a Federal data base which would track gun sales.
In the nearly five months since the Pew poll was conducted there have been 53 mass shooting where with 5 or more casualties and 7 attacks where 10 or more were killed or wounded. The latter situations include 3 killed and 9 wounded in a theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, 10 killed and 7 wounded on a college campus in Roseburg, Oregon, 3 killed and 9 wounded in a Planned Parenthood Center in Colorado Springs, and of course the 14 killed and 21 wounded in the very recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino. In the vast majority of these attacks, the weapons used were bought legally and in most of the cases with the largest number of casualties, the weapons used were assault rifles.
This massive amount of almost daily of gun violence and bloodshed is moving the needle of American public opinion. In November 5th poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 92% of those polled, including 92% of gun owners and 86% of Republicans, supported background checks for all gun sales as opposed to 7% overall opposed. And that poll was taken before both the Planned Parenthood and San Bernardino attacks.
Remember the song, “Blowing in the Wind” sung by Bob Dylan? Some of the lyrics: “How many times can a man turn his head – And pretend that he just doesn’t see?” There was also a later lyric that went, “How many deaths will it take ’til he knows – That too many people have died?” My current question is, with the vast majority of American’s in favor of sensible gun laws, how many more deaths will it take before Congressional Republicans cast off the chains of the NRA and do the right thing for their fellow Americans.