Today there is anger, disappointment, and shock on the left and glee, gloating, and snark from the right. Yes, today in the U.S. Senate 54-46 was a losing score; no there isn’t a vote spread, it’s just the American Senate where 60 is the new majority. Today, an already watered down bipartisan bill, the Manchin-Toomey bill, a bill that would mandate criminal background checks for all gun purchases via the internet or at gun shows was defeated. The watered down version exempted family member transfers, private party sales, and ‘non-commercial’ sales and yet it was still defeated. This bill, a far cry from the President’s goal of universal background checks, could not muster the necessary procedural 60 votes.
Depending what poll you look at, the American public, republicans and democrats, gun owners and otherwise, NRA members and not, universally supported increased background checks. Why? Because most intelligent Americans realize that there is a difference between gun regulation and gun registration, and gun regulation can coexist with the 2nd Amendment. So what happened today?
Each senator has to speak for themselves in why they voted the way they did. Some, I’m sure voted with their heads and some their hearts, some voted courageously and some voted cowardly, and some voted with Newtown in mind and others with re-election in mind. But there are two arguments I have heard that warrant further attention:
· These background checks would not have prevented Sandy Hook.
· This bill was an assault on the 2nd Amendment
With respect for the first argument, comprehensive gun violence prevention is the cumulative product of a number of individual measures, many of which were outlined by President Obama and several others that will never get to the floor of the Senate. I could also flip that argument and say that if all high capacity magazines and weapons such as Adam Lanza’s had been banned, Newtown COULD have been avoided. But this is the NRA talking point, they ignore the culture of the gun in America and attack the individual measures as being ineffective. I guess gun advocates and their sponsors do not believe the sum of the whole is greater than the parts.
With respect to the 2nd argument, there is simply no foundation to claim that Manchin-Toomey was an infringement of the 2nd Amendment. These liberty loving Constitutional waving lawmakers seem to think their precious 2nd Amendment is under siege while they all seem to have no problem with trampling the 4th Amendment.
The Patriot Act was signed into law on October 26, 2001, 45 days after the 9/11 attacks, when the country was still shell shocked and blood lust was erupting. Nonetheless, there was but a whisper when the House voted 357-66 and the Senate 98-1 to give law enforcement the powers to write its own search warrants; something that is clearly unconstitutional. And these warrants are not served to the person under investigation, they are served to banks, Post Offices, internet service providers, etc. to gain information about an individual and the individual may NEVER know the intrusion took place.
I bring this up because the 4th Amendment is pretty darn straightforward:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
So while hundreds of thousands of people have had their 4th Amendment rights violated in the name of security, the mighty NRA has bought a Congress to make sure that ANY attempt to address the 30,000 gun deaths per year is unconstitutional.
Oh, if I have nothing to hide I shouldn’t be afraid of the Patriot Act? Well, what in your background check scares you? The former was the attack from the pro-security crowd that blindly defended the Patriot Act. Hell it was unpatriotic to question the Patriot Act. But hey keep your legislative hands of our precious endangered 2nd Amendment. In their minds, not all Amendments were created equal.
It’s too bad the ACLU doesn’t have the NRA’s deep pockets.
So today was a tough day for many and happy day for others. But in the end, we all lost. Common sense was defeated by lies and misrepresentations, special interests defeated public safety, and the ‘world’s greatest deliberative body’ looked more like puppet theater.