by Amy Seon
Last week’s defeat of a Senate bill that would have resulted in better gun restrictions was the anticlimactic end to President Obama’s push to have at least one major piece of legislation passed during his second term. Months have gone by after his impassioned State of the Union address in which he called on Congress to stop blocking attempts to at least put the bill to a vote. Obama got his wish to start the debate, but ironically, only with the help of the National Rifle Association. How? Because the NRA granted Senators a “pass” if they decided to bring the bill to a vote so it wouldn’t go on their scorecard, but if they ended up voting for it, it would have counted as a strike against them. Of the 16 Republicans who voted with Democrats to open up the debate for the bill, only 4 voted for it.
The final vote to expand background checks was 54-46, but this is clearly not a true reflection of the will of the American people. At the time the bill was put to a vote, 90 percent were for more comprehensive background checks . When close to 90 percent of Americans were in support of the measure, is our government really listening to us?
Clearly, these elected officials are not looking out for the best interests of their constituents, but are instead cowering to the NRA, who, since 1990 has given $800,000 to 40 of the Senators that voted against the measure. It has also stepped up its spending to $700,000 for federal lobbying during the first quarter of this year, $125,000 more than it did during the same time last year.
Protection of 2nd Amendment
Democracy has been muffled when a simple majority, which they had, was not enough to fend off a Republican filibuster. When a watered-down version of a gun-control bill cannot pass by a representative body that is disproportionately skewed toward sparsely populated pro-gun states against densely populated pro-gun-control states, we will have to question how a single powerful lobby can successfully and continually exert its own self interests over the will of the majority.
If current polling data reflected the way Congress voted, 59% would vote for a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, 58% would vote for a nationwide ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, and 55% would vote in favor of stricter laws covering the sale of firearms.
The NRA historically has not had any real lobbying opposition that can compete with its power but, with the latest tragedies of Aurora and Sandy Hook, that may soon change.