Senate “Shoots Down” Firearms Bill

Is this where America is headed? (property of Nick Anderson/Houston Chronicle)

In spite of national polls indicating that roughly 90% of Americans support the implementation of universal background checks with regard to gun purchases, the Senate on Wednesday voted 54-46 to block this legislation.

President Obama called it a “shameful day for Washington,” and I completely agree. In fact, I would take it a step further and say this was a shameful day for America, not to mention a slap in the face to anyone who has lost a loved one to gun violence.

And yes, I am thinking of the Newtown families, but also any other American who has struggled to cope with this kind of loss. This includes any survivors of such attacks whose real challenge is living with the memory of what happened to them.

Before I start ranting and raving about my own beliefs and why I view this recent development as such an insult to the American people, I feel it necessary to provide some background so no one will think I’m radically opposed to the Second Amendment.

I grew up with guns and, thanks to a father who collected them and believed in educating his children on gun safety, I learned to use them both well and responsibly. We went hunting—I actually killed a charging boar at one point—and target shooting, but always with the right equipment and the appropriate attention to safety.

Granted, I never joined the National Rifle Association, but my father was a member for most of his life. And as I mentioned before, I do not oppose the Second Amendment and instead support our collective right to bear arms. I just think we should exercise this right responsibly and, based on Wednesday’s disturbing vote, it is now clear that our government disagrees.

Have we learned nothing from Aurora, Newtown and every other gun-related tragedy in our nation’s history? And do we really have to wait for things to get worse before we take meaningful steps to protect our citizens?

Apparently so.

Although I never expected legislation that banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines to make it very far in Washington—thanks in large part to the powerful gun lobby and their unhealthy influence on politics—I fully expected the universal background check bill (the Manchin-Toomey Amendment to S. 649) to pass because honestly, it seemed like a “no brainer.”

The President expresses his disappointment (courtesy of The Telegraph UK)

And considering how quickly the Senate shot it down, it appears that I was correct: brains weren’t really necessary in making this misguided decision.

The primary argument against this legislation—aside from the paranoid belief that this would be step one in the government either overturning the Second Amendment or at least exercising too much control over our right to bear arms—is that it would do nothing significant to reduce gun violence in America.

In other words, someone who wants a gun and intends to harm others will find a way to acquire one. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should make it easy for them, right?

Wrong, because that’s exactly what this vote did. People who visit licensed gun dealers will still have to submit to background checks, but the same doesn’t apply to gun shows or Internet sales. And I guarantee that’s where any unbalanced, would-be shooter will likely go from now on.

Before I address any other issues, I first want to share some comments pro-gun politicians made after this bill was rejected.

The first comes from Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who said that most of the gun proposals put forth “were predicated on one assumption that somehow we think that the criminal element will single out this one law to comply with.”

If you ask me, this sounds like a tremendous load of that stinky stuff humans and animals excrete from their buttocks. After all, aren’t criminals labelled as such because they broke the law? If so, then why would we even expect them to comply with background checks anyway? These folks will obviously find the weapons they want on the black market, as they do now.

Argument one… fail!

Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama voted against universal background checks because he feels “this is the first step in the erosion of [his] rights under the Second Amendment.” Like many others who oppose this legislation, he believes that background checks will allow our government to create and maintain some kind of gun registry, which could in turn be used to further infringe on gun owners’ constitutional rights.

Are groups like the NRA the “real power” in Washington? (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Oddly enough, though, the language used in this legislation prohibited this very thing. Did Shelby even read this bill before voting against it? I have my doubts.

What Shelby and politicians like him don’t seem to understand—which I find mind-boggling since they all work in our nation’s capitol—is that our government likely already knows everything about us. And even if they don’t, they have plenty of ways to gather information about us that don’t involve some national gun registry.

Also, couldn’t there even be some benefit to having a gun registry in place? An organization like the FBI could use it to identify weapons after crimes have been committed, to track down the original owners (to ensure their weapons haven’t been stolen) and to hopefully find and arrest criminals even faster.

Okay. Maybe this isn’t the best idea since the last thing we need is for our government to become even more Orwellian than it already is. This still doesn’t change the fact that the background check legislation prohibited a gun registry, though. And truth be told, the government is going to do what it wants anyway. Hell, they may already have a national gun registry!

Argument two… fail!

It should be obvious by now that if I wanted to, I could ramble on endlessly about these issues, condemn every single politician that voted against universal background checks, curse the NRA for being Washington puppet masters and express even more disgust and disillusion with the American system of government. Since this would likely accomplish nothing, though, it seems pointless to even try.

However, I would like to express something a number of Americans are probably thinking right now, at least among the 90% who wanted this legislation to pass:

If our government exists to represent the people—and the majority of the people want universal background checks for gun purchases—how can legislation like this fail? Are politicians really more worried about representing special interest groups—like the NRA—than the people who voted them into office?

I’m sorry, but if this is what America has become, it seems its citizens have only two choices: dismantle the government and start all over again; or find some other country to call home.

I hear Canada is nice this time of year!

Posted on April 19, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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