Senate, lobbyists gun down the will of the majority
April 17, in an emotionally charged day in Washington, D.C., the Senate turned down some hotly debated bills regarding gun control. Among the big prizes for gun control advocates included an automatic weapons ban and more rigorous background checks for gun buyers.
According to a Washington Post-ABC News national poll in March, 57 percent supported an automatic weapons ban and was turned down. Frustrating as it is, one could understand why it may fail when the full brunt of those lobbying rock stars, the National Rifle Association, floods Congress with dollars and loads up on advertisements to combat the change. A far more frustrating defeat, however, is the fall of a bill requiring extensive background checks.
The background check bill failed despite being supported by almost 90 percent of Americans in a recent poll. With majority support across the ideological spectrum, there is no reason not to pass tougher standards for background checks. When polled about their reaction to the Senate’s failure in the same poll, 60 percent were either disappointed or angry about the bill’s failure in contrast to the 23 percent who said that they were relieved or excited.
In a country where a majority of Americans want tougher gun laws, the Senate, namely Senate Republicans and a few “red state” Democrats, reject the will of the majority yet, less than a quarter polled are happy about this.
Patricia Maisch, a good Samaritan who knocked an ammunition magazine from the hands of the Jared Lee Loughner, was unhappy about the decision and had to be escorted off of the premises.
“They are an embarrassment to this country — that they don’t have any compassion or care for people who have been taken brutally from their families. I hate them,” Maisch said.
According to a Huffington Post YouGov poll released Friday, 90 percent of those indentifying themselves as Democrat, 64 percent as Independent and 60 percent as Republican favor a bill requiring background checks for all store and online gun purchases. Yet, the bill was all but dead on arrival when it hit the Senate floor for a vote — and for more than just constitutional beliefs.
Grace Wyler of businessinsider.com said the upcoming 2014 midterm elections were partially to blame, pointing out that three of the four Democrats who voted against the background check bill were up for re-election in pro-gun states that voted against President Barack Obama in 2012 and that the states that they represent — Alaska, Montana and Arkansas — have over half of their population owning at least one gun.
The members of the NRA are very passionate about protecting their gun rights, and their passion has a strong impact.
According to an April 14 Washington Post-ABC News poll, 18 percent of gun owners contact their representative to express their views on gun control, as compared to 10 percent of non-owners. Seventeen percent of gun owners give money to an organization lobbying on the issue compared to four percent of non-gun owners. On the other hand, 40 percent of gun activists said they wouldn’t vote for a politician who disagreed with their views on guns compared to over 75 percent of non-gun activists.
The notion that the will of the people could be compromised in such a fashion by lobbyists and senators is discouraging. However, there is a lesson to be learned from the passion of the NRA and its members that a lot of Americans haven’t figured out.
If you are passionate enough about a certain legislation, can afford to lobby and if you attack your opponents in the media, you too can hire the Senate and the House of Representatives to help your cause.
The NRA is organized and knows how to make things happen in legislation. If non-gun activists want stricter gun laws and their voices heard, it’s up to them to rally together against the NRA and make it difficult for legislators to say “no.”
“There needs to be a lobby to fight the NRA,” UH alumnus Marcos Rios said. “A big lobby, if they (want) something to happen.”
If gun control activists were as materially passionate as gun activists, the pressure on the Senate would be so great that it would have to come to some sort of compromise to get something passed — for better or worse.
Despite the majority being for the bill, there are still valid arguments against it.
Ed Krystaponis, an undeclared junior, said that while there is nothing wrong with background checks, the law wouldn’t have been air tight and there would still be ways to be beat the checks.
“The background checks aren’t a bad thing,” Krystaponis said.
“The only issue that I have with it is where is it going to stop. I’m not saying that your background or my background shouldn’t be checked, but if I wanted to hand the gun down to my heirs, should I not be able to do that?”
Krystaponis also said that, despite the law, if a criminal who shouldn’t have a gun wants one bad enough, a law isn’t going to stop them.
“Bad guys don’t care about the law. That’s why they are bad guys. It doesn’t matter if (they) are banned. It’s not gonna matter,” Krystaponis said.
Regardless, it seems that the will of the majority wasn’t carried out. For some, this is discouraging and exposes potential inadequacies in the legislative system. For others, it hopefully serves as a wake-up call; if people don’t take action, then Congress has no reason to change.
Jacob Patterson is a management information systems senior and may be reached at [email protected]