Thursday, June 23, 2016

All Those In Favor Of Slaughter, Say "Aye"

On Sunday, June 12th, the world woke up to the horrible news of a slaughter in Orlando FL. 49 people murdered by a man with automatic weaponry he easily obtained despite being investigated by the FBI for possible terrorism connections. Horrified by the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S., our nation’s leader took up the cause…

…to do absolutely nothing. On Monday, June 20th, the US Senate voted down 4 gun control measures. 

Not wanting to look completely obstructionist, Republicans introduced 2 of the proposals.  

  • One was to increase funding for the agency that runs background checks but offered no actual expansion of who that agency can run background checks on. In other words, this proposal was to spend more money to do what is already being done but isn’t working.
  • The other measure would let the attorney general deny firearms to any suspected terrorist but only if the AG could prove to a judge within three business days of the attempted sale that there was probable cause to suspect the buyer of ties to terrorism. I’m no expert but three days doesn’t see like a viable amount of time needed for such an investigation.

Basically, these two measures just provide cover to GOP Senators up for reelection to tell people upset about mass shootings that they tried to do something. At the same, they can assure their allies in the National Rifle Association that they did the least they could to impose any significant gun control legislation.  

Measures from the Democrats included a proposal to increase background check requirements for gun show and private sales which (pardon the pun) got shot down. Another was similar to the GOP idea of the Attorney General blocking sales to persons on terrorists watch lists but without the 3 day limit; Republicans objected to this one because it does not allow for provisions to protect citizens who may be on such watch lists in error.

So nothing got done and the respective parties retreated to their partisan corners. 

“It’s always the same. After each tragedy, we try, we Democrats try to pass sensible gun safety measures. Sadly, our efforts are blocked by the Republican Congress who take their marching orders from the National Rifle Association,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said.

“Instead of using this as an opportunity to push a partisan agenda or craft the next 30-second campaign ad,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, “Republican senators are pursuing real solutions that can help keep Americans safer from the threat of terrorism.”

There are other measures still floating around the Senate floor that may (MAY!) come up for consideration.  But even if the Senate approve any kind of gun control, it would also have to pass in the Republican-majority House of Representatives. The consensus is that the House, even less willing to compromise than the Senate, would likely not pass any gun restrictions.

Congress has not passed new gun restrictions since a 2007 expansion of the government’s automatic background check database to include individuals with a history of mental illness and felons.

So why is it so hard to get gun control legislation passed in the US Congress when the vast majority of Americans favor legislation? A lot of this can be laid at the feet of the NRA but in terms of total numbers and cash, the NRA is no more or less strong than any other lobbying organization on Capitol Hill. But it’s the intensity of its members to its mission that makes the NRA so effective and makes the passing of gun control virtually impossible.

A 2013 Pew Research Study found that people who prioritize gun rights over gun control are four or five times more likely to contribute money to advocacy groups, contact public officials, sign petitions and express their views on social media. Gun rights advocates care more about their cause than gun control proponents. If you’re part of the latter group, you might disagree with that assessment. But consider this. You think, “Guns are used to shoot people, kill people. We should control guns.” And you stop right there because, hey, why do you need to argue in further on the position that shooting and killing people is wrong and we should control the guns used to shoot and kill people?  It’s a fairly straightforward position. You make it. You move on, content in the knowledge that people of intelligence, common sense and goodwill are going to do so something about it.

And while you’re not paying attention, the NRA is in constant overdrive, pedal to the metal. Except for the slim protections afforded by the 2nd amendment, the NRA has a rather indefensible position which means more time and effort must be made to find a way to defend it. In the lull between mass shootings, the rest of us may let our guard down. Meanwhile, there are no lulls for the NRA. The energy that came from the rage you felt in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre is a level of energy that the NRA has every single damn day. And there is no avenue too small or too peripheral to further their agenda.

For example, consider the Dickey Amendment. Yes, it’s called the Dickey Amendment, named for Sen. John Dickey who originally introduced it, stop giggling, this is serious business. This amendment was added to a funding measure for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and it prohibited the CDC from using any of its funding to research the impact of gun violence on American health, safety and wellbeing. Yes, it’s a real thing. And efforts to overturn the Dickey Amendment have failed. Even as recently as last week. And do you know who is now in favor of overturning the Dickey Amendment? John Dickey. That's right, the guy who sponsored the amendment in the first place thinks its a bad idea but even he cannot kill it. 

And understand the Dickey Amendment does not control who can or cannot buy guns. It merely restricts information on what happens with all those guns we buy. You know those legislators who deny gun control measures because there’s no credible evidence to suggest there’s a problem or that gun control would solve anything? They’re not entirely lying. The CDC has data on everything that impacts the health of Americans; diseases of course but also data on poisons, car accidents, all sorts of things. But not one stitch of data on guns. Guns which injure and kill thousands of Americans.

There are increasing efforts to try and match the NRA not just in members and dollars but also in the intensity. Which is what it will take to save us from ourselves. Yes, it’s like having somebody remind you every other moment to breathe. You’d think that would come naturally. But no, what it will take is reminding your Congressperson every single damn day, “Hey, don’t forget to do something that will help us not get shot.”

A tip of the hat to the Washington Post, USA Today and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver for material for today’s post.


By the way, I wrote this post on Tuesday. Since then, not much has changed but not for lack of trying as Congressional Democrats staged a sit-in Wednesday. House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed this as a publicity stunt to which I reply, "Well, duh!" People need to pay attention with what's going on...or more accurately NOT going on with our lawmakers when it comes to protecting American lives from guns run amok. Will this get anyone's attention and finally lead to significant gun control? I have my doubts but let's wait and see.

Meanwhile, the NRA isn't letting up. Get a load of this still from where I was watching Seth Meyer's piece on gun control. 

I hate to say it but that duffel bag does look kind of sweet.


Thanks for dropping by. Another new post is coming up tomorrow. Until next time, remember to be good to one another.  

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You


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