A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, April 19, 2013

NRA Wins Round 1 - Gun Bill Shelved

The proposed gun legislation in the Senate is now officially dead. Yesterday Majority Leader Reid withdrew the bill (at least for now), because it had become obvious that their were not enough votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. It would take 60 votes to overcome the filibuster, and even the watered-down Manchin-Toomey amendment could only get 54 votes.

This means there will be no closing of the loopholes in the background check laws (even though supported by 9 out of 10 Americans), no increase in penalties for gun trafficking, and no banning of assault weapons and high-volume ammunition clips (although that was never likely to pass, since it was supported by a much smaller majority of Americans). In short, the NRA leadership won this fight -- at least for the present (in spite of the fact that a majority of NRA members supported the Senate's background check bill).

There are now those that want to claim it was a bipartisan effort to kill the bill, or that the bill would have passed if supported by all Democrats. Neither is true. As the chart above shows, it was clearly the Republican Party that has blocked this (and any other gun legislation) this year. Even if the four blue-dog Democrats (Pryor, Heitkamp, Begich, Baucus) who voted against the bill had voted for it, it would have only had 59 votes and would have failed. The Republicans will try to duck responsibility in the coming days for nothing being done about the growing gun violence in America, but it is clear that they are responsible.

And yesterday, the GOP was excoriated by one of it's own for this action blocking the bill -- former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough. He said:

You don’t ignore 90 percent of what the voting population wants when you’re talking about the safety of Americans, of our families, of our communities, of our schools. The safety that we feel when we send our kids to malls, to churches, to college…I just want to be clear. I said this party is heading towards extinction. Talking about the 2013 version of the Republican Party. A new Republican Party, though, is going to come in its place. This sort of extremism is going to be called out by the 90%. We’re the 90% and we are going to win. This is just the first battle.

The president also clearly showed his disgust with the political cowardice of the 4 blue-dogs and the NRA-allegiance of the 41 GOP senators. Here are some of the remarks he made in his speech from the Rose Garden after the Senate vote had failed:

- “I’m going to speak plainly and honestly about what’s happened herebecause the American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen.”

- “This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry. Plain and simple, right there in the text. But that didn’t matter. And unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose, because those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners, and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators.”

- “But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun… It came down to politics — the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections.”

- “I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? … It begs the question, who are we here to represent?

- “I’ve heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced. ‘A prop,’ somebody called them. ‘Emotional blackmail,’ some outlet said. Are they serious? Do we really think that thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don’t have a right to weigh in on this issue? Do we think their emotions, their loss is not relevant to this debate?

- “So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.”

- “You need to let your representatives in Congress know that you are disappointed, and that if they don’t act this time, you will remember come election time.”

If the Democrats are smart, they will make this a huge issue in the 2014 election -- and I believe that is just what they'll do. As the president said, this is just round one. This fight is not over. Eventually the loopholes in the background check law will be closed. The only question now is how many more deaths and mass killings must we have before it is done.

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