Cowards and Bullies: Gun Legislation in America

Who should be allowed to purchase and own a gun in America? The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution declares:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

These sacred words are an integral part of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights along with the rights of free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to assemble and to petition the government, to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to a speedy trial and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. These are the core freedoms guaranteed to all Americans, but they are not unlimited in scope. All of these guaranteed freedoms have restrictions, including the 2nd Amendment.

Yesterday the Senate of the United States, following a week of lobbying by the President, Gabrielle Giffords, and the families of the Newtown victims, voted down a simple common sense bill to extend the gun sale background check requirement to include all gun show and internet sales. It is a shameful, infuriating, insulting, depressing, unconscionable, and embarrassing abdication of responsibility to the 90% of Americans who supported the bill.

How could this happen? Maybe this will explain some of what’s behind the vote. A similar bill was introduced in the Washington State legislature this year. A friend of mine who is a representative in the legislature told me that when the bill reached the floor for debate there were several gun rights advocates observing the debate in the gallery –carrying long guns. This is just one example of the intimidation tactics used by gun control opponents. Unbelievable but true. Even Washington State, the bluest of blue states, could not pass a watered down gun law aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

It is astonishing to think that even though the NRA spent $32million on the 2012 election races they lost almost every one yet still control enough votes in the US Congress to defeat a simple common sense extension of the existing law on background checks. My hope is that the NRA coffers will be drained in the state by state and federal fights it has undertaken. The majority of the NRA’s funding for these battles is coming not from membership dues but from gun manufacturers. Do we really want gun manufacturers controlling the debate over our own safety and the safety of our children?

Money and Ammo

Yesterday 5 Democrats, all vulnerable in the next election cycle, joined 49 Republicans to defeat the watered down bipartisan compromise bill introduced by Senators Manchin (D- W VA) and Toomey (R – PA). I’m appalled that there are so many cowards sitting in the Senate and I’m equally appalled that the NRA resorted to bullying and lying to prevent the cowards from voting the will of their constituents. Yes, lying! The bill did not include provisions for a national gun registry. The plain language of the bill prohibited that but the NRA told its supporters that it did. Senator Flake of Arizona said it would require a background check even if the sale was posted on an office bulletin board, and Senator Coburn of Oklahoma said the law would raise taxes though it clearly would not.

Where are the heroes? The only heroes in evidence are the teachers at Sandy Hook who shielded their students and were killed attempting to protect them. In Boston, on Monday, people ran toward the area where the bomb went off to help the victims. Ordinary people rose to extraordinary acts of heroism, but the cowards in Congress ran away from the victims and the problem. Manchin and Toomey deserve credit for their courage, but the 54 Senators that voted against the bill should have to explain their votes to the Newtown families – one on one. Their votes are shameful and embarrassing.

The evidence is overwhelming. Everyone agrees that criminals (felons), the mentally disturbed, and those with a history of domestic violence should be prohibited from owning a gun. The Newtown massacre broke the hearts of Americans of every political persuasion. It was a tragedy of unimaginable proportions for the families of the 26 victims and a wakeup call for the rest of us. It was clearly time to do something about the reckless and largely unregulated distribution of guns in America. In the days following the Newtown tragedy I was encouraged by the national outrage and acknowledgment that the time was ripe for the conversation about laws regarding gun ownership. It was clear from the beginning that the National Rifle Association would oppose any restrictions on purchasing guns, but national polling showed that over 88% of Americans, including something like 74% of NRA members favored the expansion of background checks to close gun show and internet loopholes. I can’t explain what happened in the US Senate yesterday, but I know the fight for reasonable regulation of gun sales is not over. I am part of a group called the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility and we won’t stop working for sensible legislation – like that enacted in Connecticut and New York – no matter how long it takes.

This fight isn’t over. Both the bullies and the cowards should take note. There are heroes emerging to keep up the fight.


  1. Jack,
    You have said a mouthful and eloquently I might add. As sad as it is, it’s only the beginning of a war common sense and decency will finally win. All these actions have consequences and when the majority of the country finally wakes up from their American Idol (et al.) induced stupor I firmly believe we will persevere. Best regards, Peter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *