Shameful Leadership

Gabby Giffords, in an op-ed for The New York Times, on today’s defeat of the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act:

This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a long, hard haul. Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list.

The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, or so-called Manchin-Toomey Amendment1, was a bill that aimed to make illegal gun purchases more difficult for criminals.

The legislation attempted to extend existing background checks to online and gun show sales, while exempting private purchases. The bill did not: infringe Second Amendment rights, take away anyone’s firearms, or ban/restrict any firearm, bullet, or magazine. Despite blatant lies from the gun lobby, the bill would not create a national gun registry. In fact, the act explicitly criminalized the creation of such a registry by any government agency - punishable by a prison sentence of 15 years. That’s it - a simple, common-sense, bipartisan compromise.

Don’t take my word for it. Actually read the bill yourself instead of taking the word of your partisan news network of choice. 2

It is true that such a law would not have prevented the Sandy Hook tragedy. But that’s not the point. The point is to make it more difficult for criminals to obtain weapons through existing loopholes, while preserving the rights of law-abiding citizens. There is nothing controversial about such a plan.

It is truly an embarrassing day for Congress when Senators fear the rating of a lobby group to the point that they ignore the will of over 90% of Americans - all while the grieving family members of gun victims were forced to watch. It’s no wonder Congress enjoys a paltry 15% approval rating. As Giffords said:

if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress

Let’s put it another way. As John Gruber writes:

The 56 senators who voted in favor of the new legislation represent 76 percent of the nation’s population; the 44 who voted against it (and thus blocked it, as it needed 60 votes to break a filibuster) represent 24 percent of the population.

That’s not how democracy is supposed to function. Our current national leaders have no resolve, they fear big decisions, they choose brinkmanship over the well-being of their nation, and they fail to execute the job for which they were elected - they are cowards. Shameful. Cowards.

  1. Named for the bill’s authors, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). [return]
  2. Yes, I mean both left and right-leaning networks. [return]