The last couple of days have been difficult for many Americans, especially those who have either lost a loved one or know someone who has been affected by gun violence. We watched as the United States Senate failed to pass background check legislation that could have helped curb the death, human destruction and financial costs of the one million plus men, women and children who have been senselessly killed by guns since 1968.
The 46 members of the Senate who voted ‘no’ on having individuals submit to a background check to buy a gun was simply a matter of political expediency at the expense of American citizens. The members of the Senate — nearly all Republicans and four Democrats — voted no for a variety of reasons but the one most bandied about the halls of the US Capitol by the National Rifle Association (NRA) was fear of creating a national registry of gun owners. They convinced themselves that, at some point, the information contained within such a database would be used to confiscate law-abiding Americans’ guns thereby violating their 2nd amendment rights. That fear was both unwarranted and untruthful: the defeated bill had provisions which would have prohibited the establishment of any sort of collective database. The language clearly stated that “Congress supports and reaffirms the existing prohibition on a national firearms registry.” And, further, “Nothing in this title, or any amendment made by this title, shall be construed to allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a Federal firearms registry.”
The NRA and its allies sought to derail the efforts to insist on background check and they succeeded. They tossed aside reasonableness sought by approximately 90% of the American public with false claims made stronger through fear-mongering.
One estimate has put over 300,000,000 guns in America, almost one gun for every person in the country, and most of those guns are owned by responsible people. That, however, hasn’t stopped the thinking of those who feel a gun represents protection from a tyrannical government. It’s the same thinking that led to the insurrection of the southern states and, later, segregation of African-Americans. The fear of helicopters in the night with black thugs coming to defile their women and then forcing slavery upon the men are common themes from the fringes of the right wing fear mongers and the US Senate gave credence to all the wild talk with their negative vote.
The no vote by the 46 Senators was not an act of conscience; it was merely an act of self-preservation. Each Senator who voted no fell to the power of the gun lobby and the NRA. The fear of losing the NRA’s “A” rating controlled the debate from the moment Senators Toomey (R-PA) and Manchin (D-WV) drafted the legislation. Much of the process was doomed from the start; the lawmakers were fearful of losing their prized status with the NRA and some threatened to filibuster the debate but they ultimately permitted to roll call to take place only after realizing they could control the voting.
Many across the land are outraged and some are stunned by the callousness of the members of the senate who voted against the will of the people — but one thing is for certain: the senators who voted no on this legislation will be on the minds of every American who has lived with the pain of the death of a loved one at the hands of gun violence. The gun safety movement is not going away, and each day more and more intelligent and caring people are realizing that they are being manipulated by politicians who care only about their own personal position, wealth and status.
This week the Senators who broke with the will of the American people will have to face those same people at election booths across the land and, as it is with the elephant used as the GOP’s symbol, those people will not forget how they were abandoned by their representatives. Spectators in the senate gallery yelled “Shame on you” as the vote for back ground checks failed to muster the 60 vote threshold needed for passage of this important legislation. Many more people across the land are just as disgusted by the cowards who call themselves senator. The American people will win this war some day and when they do, the names of those senators who stood in the way of progress will be a distant memory but will bear a pock mark — just like the names of those who defended segregation, discrimination and the subjugation of women.