". . .And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.
. . .This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense." - President Obama, October 1, 2015, yet another speech after a mass shooting His 11th.
We've had another mass murder, this time on a community college campus in Oregon, where nine students and the shooter are dead. We're outraged, we're grieving, we're looking for answers. We've been through this before, and the worst part is, we know for a fact we'll go through it again.
Those on the right, when they're not blaming mental health, are blaming liberals in general and Obama in particular. Those on the left are blaming the NRA and an out-of-control gun culture. There is enough goddamned blame to go around, but I blame Congress. They're in control. They can read the same impossible numbersthat I can. They can twist arms. They can make laws. They can declare the gun epidemic a moral crisis--a national disaster--and go at it full force. But they're cowards and they won't.
When it comes to gun murders we're so far ahead of any country on earth, there's no danger of any of them catching up with us. And still we do nothing but argue about it. We're so good at rehashing the same old stuff, we've become experts at it. Not at finding solutions, just at rehashing.
I wish I knew what else to do. I don't. So let me rehash. This is the column I wrote after the Republicans in Congress voted down what should have been a slam-dunk reform move after the Sandy Hook massacre at Newtown, Massachusetts. Congress had all the public support it needed to grind to a halt the bloody mess our love affair with guns has caused. They wouldn't do it. They still won't do it. And without them, we can't do it. (It's long, I know, but there are voices there that deserve to be heard again. As you read this, keep in mind that the vote happened more than two years ago. We've had an election since then and many of those same congressional culprits have been re-elected.)
April 18, 2013:
Politicians out of control on Guns: Never Forgive, Never Forget
Yesterday 46 members of the Senate voted down a proposal that would have been a logical first step to gun control--universal background checks. They were able to vote it down, even though 54 members voted for it because they rigged the way the votes count now. Voting it down for no good reason is bad enough but they did it through cowardice, lies and cheats. The whole process was despicable, made even more so by the fact that it happened in the chambers where expectations of fairness and fidelity used to run quite high.
These public servants ignored the wishes of at least 90% of Americans and caved, instead, to willful profit-oriented special interests. They lied about the content of the bill and insured their success by forcing a 60-vote approval instead of a fairer, more honest majority vote.
In a sane world, this would be enough to cause those who voted against the wishes of the people some actual discomfort, if not some actual punishment. Our outrage (those of us who have sense enough to be outraged) comes today because we know nothing will happen to them. They will go on for another day and another day after that making bad decisions that will affect all of us in one way or another, and all we can do is shout about it.
We are outraged. The parents and families of the Newtown School massacre are outraged. Gabrielle Giffords is outraged. The president is outraged. The Democrats (all but four senators) are outraged. Certain members of the press are outraged. But our rage at these 46 members of the United States Senate who voted to keep guns out of our control is, in the end, no more than hot air. Rage, like hot air, dissipates. It weakens to anger, and anger, when it is not satisfied, weakens to a sigh. We're exhausted. We'll inevitably leave it behind and go on.
They get away with these undemocratic actions once again because we have neither the authority nor the strength to stop them. And they know this.
The president gave a masterful speech yesterday, designed to both clarify his rage and to shame them for their actions. They don't care.
A portion of what the president said:
Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders –- not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children. And a few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn’t worth it. They blocked common-sense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.
By now, it’s well known that 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun. We’re talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with a severe mental illness. Ninety percent of Americans support that idea. Most Americans think that’s already the law.
And a few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate just voted for that idea. But it’s not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea.
A majority of senators voted “yes” to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks. But by this continuing distortion of Senate rules, a minority was able to block it from moving forward.
Gabrielle Giffords wrote an impassioned editorial in the New York Times yesterday, designed to show her rage and to shame those senators. They don't care.
Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.
James Fallows wrote a great piece in the Atlantic yesterday called "For the Love of God, just call it a Filibuster". They don't care.
- Today a provision that would increase background checks for gun purchases was blocked in the Senate, even though consideration of the bill was supported by 54 senators representing states that make up (at quick estimate) at least 60 percent of the American population.
- The bill did not fail to "pass" the Senate, which according to Constitutional provisions and accepted practice for more than two centuries requires a simple majority, 51 votes. Even 50 votes should do it, since the vice president is constitutionally empowered to cast the tie-breaking and deciding vote, and Joe Biden would have voted yes.
- It failed because a 54-vote majority was not enough to break the threat of a filibuster, which (with some twists of labeling) was the real story of what happened with this bill. Breaking the filibuster would have required 60 votes.
The Twitterverse clogged the place yesterday listing one by one the names of those senators who voted "no". They don't care.
Journalists, essayists, bloggers, and hundreds of thousands of enraged activists took to their preferred soapboxes and shouted out in anguished rage. The senators ignored us all. They don't care.
They're counting on our inattention, our tendency to be distracted and manipulated, our refusal to believe our elected politicians could turn against us so cruelly, so blatantly, and so often.
This is our chance to show them how much we care. We can't forget. We must not forgive. We will not let them get away with this latest insult. They should not be allowed to win again. Not if we are who we think we are.
So that was then. This is now.