Despite polls showing that 90% of Americans support universal background checks, the Senate could not muster the 60 votes needed to pass the Manchin-Toomey amendment. Or pass any gun legislation.The status quo remains intact, for the moment.
After the final 54-46 tally was announced, Patricia Maisch stood up in the gallery and shouted "Shame on you!" The hero from Tucson that grabbed the clip from Jared Loughner as he tried to reload was escorted out of the Senate Chamber by Capitol police. Outside she told reporters,
"They have no souls. They have no compassion for the experiences that people have lived through ... [having] a child or loved one murdered by a gun. They say that it's not the gun, it's the man. I'm here to tell you ... The man and the gun become intimate and they cannot do the act without each other. So the gun is part of the problem."Surrounded by the families of the Sandy Hook victims, an angry President Obama declared that it was a “shameful day for Washington". And it was a shameful day. A shameful vote. When a measure designed to make just a tiny bit more difficult for criminals and adjudicated mentally ill to purchase weapons can't get 60 votes it is shameful. There is no other word for it.
What went wrong? Too much time was spent talking to individuals who will never listen. There is a certain segment of gun owners who live in constant fear that the government is hell bent on taking their guns away. This is a long standing fear and there is no cure for it.
I listened to the speeches on the Senate floor and the various press conferences, interviews. Most of the time was spent talking about NRA memberships, ratings, love of guns and gun ownership. All in an effort to reassure voters that will never reassured. God could come down and appear before them offering a divine guarantee that their guns are safe and they would turn atheists before letting go of their fear of losing guns.
The focus of the speeches should have been about saving lives. And the legislation should also have been focused on saving lives instead of settling for a watered down bill that accomplished very little. In describing the legislation Senator John McCain said,
“Is this a perfect solution? No. Will it prevent all future acts of gun violence? Of course not..... Would it have prevented the most recent acts of gun violence? In all likelihood, no. But it is reasonable, and it is my firm conviction that it is constitutional.”It almost begs the question of why bother taking up the bill. We need for background checks to be universal. If a person cannot qualify on his or her own to purchase a gun through a licensed dealer, he or she should not be able to purchase guns through private sales. Period. Stop messing around with language that a federal registry will not be created. That the Second Amendment is the 11th Commandment Moses received on Mount Sinai. It is a waste of time. The paranoid will stay paranoid. In the meantime, more lives will be gunned down.
Put the opponents of universal background checks on the defensive. Make them explain where in the Constitution does it say that family members have a constitutional right to arm their mentally ill relatives as Nancy Lanza did. The Constitution grants an individual right to bear arms. It does not grant anyone a constitutional right to arm others. For God's sake it is illegal to give one's prescription drugs to others, why is it okay to hand them a gun?
In Tucson, Loughner was tackled while trying to reload. While Adam Lanza was reloading, eleven children were able to escape. Limiting magazine size saves lives. That should have been stressed instead of talking about having an "A" rating from the NRA and being an avid hunter. Limiting magazine size makes the assault weapons ban unnecessary. Let individuals own and tinker with their scary looking guns. Without large magazines it will be like having a Ferrari in a school zone. Impressive but still going 20 mph.
During the State of the Union, Obama said that the victims of gun violence at the very least deserved a vote. That much has been achieved. We now have Senators on record on this issue. Hopefully, we will get the House on record too before the 2014 congressional elections. But going forward, the supporters of background checks and other measures must focus on making the case why their legislation will save lives. The moment anyone start insinuating that government will take guns away hand them the name of top psychiatrists and tell them to seek help. Stop indulging paranoia.