The Norman Transcript

April 28, 2013

Political fear trumping safety in gun control debate

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

Just four months after the massacre of elementary school children and teachers at Newtown, Connecticut, it appears the most modest of all gun control measures is now dead— the victim of a minority of uncourageous United States Senators capitulating once again to a powerful special interest.

Former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords minced no words: “Senators looked over their shoulders at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby and brought shame on themselves and our government by choosing to do nothing. “ The defeated measure, intended to close the background check loophole for gun show sales and internet sales, was a watered down version. Dropped from its provisions were the calls for banning assault rifles and high capacity, multi-round ammunition clips. The loophole targeted was reportedly characterized by Senator John McCain several years ago as needed only by “criminals and terrorists.” To those two categories could be added the category of persons with mental illnesses.

Under the proposed bill, no one’s guns were being taken away and hunters did not have to worry about ammunition restrictions or some definitional snag which made a “shotgun” more than just a shotgun. Yet, despite its limited scope, in the end, the bill received only 54 votes, falling 6 votes short of the 60 needed for passage.

Initially, in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, passage of an expanded background check bill seemed guaranteed. An overwhelming majority of the nation’s citizens supported the idea, as did most law enforcement leaders. The need was neither complex nor controversial. But then the NRA and gun lobby went to work. A collection of misstatements helped seal the measure’s defeat. The NRA claimed the legislation could apply to transfers between family members, falsely spreading the word that a gift of a hunting shotgun to a 12 year old grandson could be subject to a federal background check. The proposed bill excluded transfers within a family and between friends.

Next, the Constitution’s Second Amendment was trotted out, accompanied by fuzzy concerns about its potential application, notwithstanding the fact that constitutional interpretation has always allowed reasonable regulation of the sale of guns. Ironically, the clearest constitutional argument voiced against any gun regulation whatsoever was one that should leave law abiding citizens aghast. It is the chillingly wrong assertion that the Second Amendment was placed in the Constitution to protect citizens from an oppressive government (akin to the dangerous rationale of mass murderer Timothy McVeigh).

In the end, despite the nation’s wish to do what it can to protect itself against the types of violent events that have killed our children, grandchildren and their teachers, the United States Senate did what it does best.

It filibustered, obfuscated the need for any legislation, closed ranks along party lines, and did nothing.

Only four Republican Senators, John McCain, Mark Kirk, Susan Collins, and the bill’s co-author Pat Toomey voted in favor of the bill. Political fear, much different than real fear, trumped the safety of the nation’s small children. Welcome to America’s Congress in the 21st century.

Don Holladay


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