A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Incredibly Gutless Harry Reid

The above graphic shows that gun laws do work. The NRA and their Republican flunkies in Congress have said that gun laws don't work, but note above that the states that have the most gun laws and restrictions also have the fewest gun deaths per capita. That would give credence to the idea that a decent gun law passed by the United States Congress could substantially lower the extraordinarily high number of gun deaths in this country.

And the majority of people of this country have shown they want to see a decent gun bill passed. Between 80% and 90% of Americans want to see the loopholes closed in the required background checks, and a smaller majority would like to see the sale of military-style assault weapons and cartridge magazines holding more than 10 bullets banned for future sales. The question now is whether Congress will bow to the will of the people or give in to the wishes of the NRA leadership.

We already know that it will be very hard to get any bill passed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Now it looks like we may not even get a decent gun bill in the Senate. And for that, we can blame the political cowardice of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). Reid had a long record of knuckling under to Republicans in the 112th Congress, and he has already started to continue that pattern of behavior in this 113th Congress.

At the end of the last Congress, Reid was talking very boldly about needing to do something to fix the filibuster (to rein in the use of it by Republicans to stall and obstruct everything the president tried to accomplish). But when push came to shove, Reid gave in and agreed to a watered-down version of reform that allows the GOP to continue abusing the filibuster to demand that every bill passed in the Senate must have 60 votes. Now it looks like he is ready to give in to NRA and GOP pressure on gun legislation.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed four bills. Those bills would increase penalties for gun trafficking, provide more money for school security, close the loopholes in background checks, and ban the future sale of assault weapons and high volume ammunition clips. Reid has said he would combine the bills passed out of committee into one omnibus gun bill. The problem is that he has already said that the ban on assault weapons and large volume ammunition clips would NOT be in that bill (because he thinks it might sink the whole bill if included).

Now we learn that it is not even certain that closing the loopholes in background checks will make it into his "omnibus" gun bill. He says the Democrats and GOP are still negotiating about whether those selling weapons should be required to keep records on those sales -- and if a compromise can't be reached, then the closing of background check loopholes might also be excluded form the bill.

Personally, I think that would make the final weakened bill little more than a joke, since both of the major provisions supported by a majority of Americans would be excluded. Could the bill be passed with those two provisions in it. I don't know. But I do know they'll never be passed if they are not even allowed to be in the bill! And leaving them out just makes the legislation an exercise in futility.

Obviously, Reid still hasn't learned to play the same kind of political hardball that the Republicans routinely play. He should put both provisions in the omnibus bill, and then if the Republicans kill it they'll have to bear the wrath of the American voters in the next election. Maybe then we can get a Congress that will pass a meaningful gun bill. But watering down the bill does no good for anyone. It will make the voters mad at both parties (justifiably), and it won't save American lives.

I'm getting sick and tired of Reid knuckling under to the Republicans. Why won't the Democrats select a Majority Leader with some political courage? Reid just makes them look like a party of weaklings.

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