Shame Congress into passing gun control laws

Republicans successfully derailed the passage of gun legislation last month in the last moments when passage looked likely. The 54 votes in favor fell short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who co-authored the bill, said it would have passed if the National Rifle Association did not score it. The NRA score scared enough senators to oppose it rather than risk reprisals from pro-gunners come election time. Most headlines called these folks cowards.

Let us be clear: This was not a good piece of legislation anyway. It was full of holes and, if passed, would have been meaningless. For example, gun show sellers could just walk outside the gun show building and sell guns in the parking lot. Family members and friends could sell guns to each other without any background checks. And how is it that most criminals get guns? Through friends.

Make no mistake, this is a partisan fight: 90 percent of Democrats voted for the bill; 90 percent of Republicans against it. But a few courageous Republicans did break rank to vote in favor of the bill, siding with the overwhelming majority of citizens who favor background checks.

Universal background checks, a ban on military weapons in civilian hands, large capacity magazine bullet clips and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable have nothing to do with the Second Amendment, but the NRA and pro-gun groups continue to blur the lines.

Guns have changed since colonial times, and so should the laws. Back then, militias were needed to suppress British loyalists, keep the slave population in control and fight off marauding Indians. Able-bodied men were conscripted into militia duty for war when needed. Today, we have a standing army, the National Guard and well-established police forces all across the country. Militias are a thing of the past.

How is it that Republicans can flaunt their opposition to gun laws and bow to the NRA while they put budgets on the table that will gut Social Security and Medicare, whose benefits help more than 40 million seniors? It appears that 4 million NRA members are worth more than 35 million AARP members when it comes to priorities in Congress. AARP lobbies, too, so let us start a senior score system to use come election time and see how that fares.

Social activist and filmmaker Michael Moore says we should show the pictures of the Newtown, Conn., massacre if we want effective gun laws passed. Showing pictures of the horror of war was enough to turn the tide of the Vietnam War and get us out. We did not see the horror of the Afghanistan or Iraq wars because the Bush administration censored it.

Showing photos of flag-draped coffins of soldiers returning home was prohibited, and Bush himself did not attend one funeral for a fallen soldier because of the bad press it would bring. Maybe it is time to make some billboards showing crime scenes such as that of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Maybe that is the catalyst we need to move Congress to act.

Tyler Cassell


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