A couple of weeks ago, it seemed like the US Senate might actually respond to the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans when it comes to sensible gun control. It seemed as if the Senate, the more deliberative body of Congress, would pass a bill that would at the very least help to prevent some felons and violent individuals from easily acquiring guns.
But yesterday, the Senate voted 54 to 46 on an amendment requiring background checks before a gun could be purchased, falling six votes short of the 60 needed to prevent a filibuster. The proposed legislation’s other amendments — banning high-capacity magazines and assault weapons suitable for military combat — were also defeated.
The Senate’s decision drew a swift and angry response from President Obama who referred to it as a “shameful day.” In a news conference after the vote, Obama said the National Rifle Association had successfully convinced some conservatives that the law would lead to a national registry for gun owners, even though the law specifically stated the opposite.
Hints of trouble surfaced when Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida made a whirlwind press tour last Sunday on all of the news shows. When asked about whether he would support universal background checks, he offered the obligatory sympathy to families of the victims of Newtown, Connecticut. Then he complained about the violent culture promoted by Hollywood filmmakers.
Florida should be outraged at his absurd response to such a serious problem. The citizens of Florida aren’t strangers to gun violence. But voters in many states should be outraged at the abdication of responsibility some elected officials showed concerning their chief responsibility: doing everything humanly possible to protect and ensure the safety of the American people.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote in his column about the lessons gleaned from the Senate’s vote: as horrified as the American public is by the Newtown massacre, it is not enough to stop business as usual in Washington.
And senators, most Republicans and some Democrats, saw the 2014 election in front of them and voted for job preservation.
We also know now that we can’t depend on this Congress to work together for sensible and pragmatic compromises on virtually anything — not immigration, the economy, or a balanced approach to resolving the nation’s debt crisis.
When elected officials vote in favor of aiding felons and violent individuals in their efforts to purchase high-powered weapons of war, something has gone terribly wrong.
A dysfunctional partisan government may pose a worst threat to the American people than anything to do with the Second Amendment.