Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Gun sanity and America's shame

The failure of Congress to vote on the assault weapons ban -- and other common-sense gun laws -- is a betrayal of the American people and a failure of democracy.

Gun sanity and America's shame

From Oregon to Mississippi, President Obama´s proposed ban on new assault weapons and large-capacity magazines struck a nerve among rural lawmen and lawmakers, many of whom vowed to ignore any restrictions and even try to stop federal officials from enforcing gun policy in their jurisdictions.  (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
From Oregon to Mississippi, President Obama's proposed ban on new assault weapons and large-capacity magazines struck a nerve among rural lawmen and lawmakers, many of whom vowed to ignore any restrictions and even try to stop federal officials from enforcing gun policy in their jurisdictions. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

This front page from this morning's New York Daily News should have been the front page of every newspaper in America today. My only potential quibble is that maybe "shame" isn't a powerful enough word. I'm not sure what is. There are no words, actually. What can you say about a nation that can look into those eyes in the image directly above -- the faces of children who were gunned down in their first-grade classroom by a high-powered weapon, some of them dismembered by so many bullets, and yet does nothing.

OK, next to nothing. The moves that President Obama took by executive order -- like restoring public-health research into gun violence -- were baby steps in the right direction. And yesterday's news -- that the proposed new version of the ban on certain assault weapons that was in place from 1994 to 2004 is dead -- doesn't preclude other gun measures, including stricter background checks and bans on large-capacity magazines, from eventual action in this Congress.

But I have the sinking feeling -- and I suspect many who pray for the arrival of sane gun laws in America are feeling the same way -- that these same 535 clowns who can't pass a budget, among other things, are going to contribute absolutely nothing to the push to prevent another Newtown. It's possible that some Republicans may vote for the background check law -- the same way that some are now embracing immigration reform -- as a kind of modified limited hangout. (Meanwhile, high-capacity magazines, which are of little or no use for hunting or home protection but fantastic for mass murderers, are probably going to survive -- please explain that to me.) And there's the small consolation that some states -- starting with Colorado -- are doing what they can for gun sanity. But it's small consolation, indeed.

The most frustrating part is that when Newtown happened, the NRA was not at all secretive about its game plan -- that it was going to wait people out, like it did after every other mass slaughter of innocent Americans. And of course it's working. An extreme, paranoid right-wing hate group continues to control the direction of our government -- thwarting common sense gun laws that are not only backed by the overwhelming majority of the American people but by the majority of its own members. This is about more than a piece of legislation. This is a complete breakdown of democracy -- a government that was created to respond to the will of the people, ignoring the will of the people.

I would do anything -- and I mean anything -- to help run the people who won't vote for this legislation out of politics all together. Even if I agreed with them on every single other issue. They disgust me. But practically I probably won't live long enough to see the turnover. It's nice to dream about hoards of committed activists storming the districts of pro-gun lawmakers -- especially Democrats -- and replacing them; the realities of going to a state like West Virginia or Arkansas, beating an entrenched conservative Democrat with a little-known progressive in a primary, and then defeating a Republican whose pockets are stuffed with NRA and corporate money...that's just not going to happen.

I don't care what the wiser Beltway heads of "getting things done" (who never seem to get anything done...ever notice that?) say about what's responsible or reasonable. I wish Harry Reid had called a vote on the assault weapons issue. We need to know the names of these betrayers of the will of the American people -- every last one of them. Because the next time that babies are slaughtered in America, the blood is going to be on their hands. Like the New York Daily News said, shame on us.

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Will Bunch
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