On Wednesday, while the nation was focused on news about a possible arrest of a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, several amendments to the gun control bill, including the so-called Manchin-Toomey amendment which would require universal background checks--the lowest hanging fruit of a bill that was already modest in scope--were defeated. The amendment, which has public support of 92%, received only 54 votes in favor, 46 against, meaning it failed to clear the 60-vote hurdle needed to move ahead. Four Democrats (Baucus of Montana, Begich of Alaska, Heitkamp of N.Dakota, and Harry Reid of Nevada) voted no. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, it should be noted, voted against the amendment for procedural reasons, in order to preserve the right to bring the measure back up for another vote.
According to The Washington Post, "A number of other amendments also failed to earn the 60 votes necessary to pass: A GOP proposal including a number of changes, 52 to 48; a bipartisan amendment to stiffen penalties for 'straw purchasers,' 58 to 42; a GOP-backed amendment that would have permitted 'national reciprocity' of state-issued concealed carry permits, 57 to 43; a GOP plan to extend gun rights for veterans, including those deemed unable to manage their financial affairs, 56-44; and a Democratic amendment to limit the size of ammunition magazines, 54-46."
All in all, it was a dark day for advocates of comprehensive gun control, but hardly surprising. In spite of its waning influence over the electorate, the NRA still has such a firm hold on politicians in Washington that policies even a majority of its four and a half million members support can't get passed, let alone voted upon. You might as well give the NRA naming rights to the U.S. Capitol Building.
Monday's bomb attack which killed three people and injured more than 180 reminded Americans that public safety cannot be taken for granted. I strongly feel, however, that the greatest threat to Americans today is not a terrorist with a home-made bomb, but rather the feckless politicans in D.C. who are unable to stand up to the gun industry's lobby and do the right thing. Shame on them.
28,840 people have been shot so far this year in the goold ol' United States. In a normal country, a fraction of that dismal statistic would be more than enough to prompt action on gun violence. Not in America, though, where not even the massacre of twenty innocent school children was enough to move Senators to vote for modest changes in our gun laws. It makes me sick.
In 1955, then Senator John F. Kennedy published Profiles in Courage, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography describing the accounts of eight senators who had crossed party lines or defied the opinion of their constituents to do what they believed was right. A new edition of the work is scheduled to be published later this year. Working title: Profiles That Discourage.