The U.S. Senate backed away from gun controls the past week, probably killing any chances for another attempt, and certainly delaying any more action on the issue in this session. Even with a major effort by the White House for controls, senators bowed to pressure from gun advocates and the National Rifle Association and rejected proposed controls.
Gun advocates have never been more vocal against controls, even with the national emotional response for controls after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., that motivated renewed efforts for controls. The Senate voted down a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks for gun buyers, a ban on assault weapons and a ban on high-capacity gun magazines. Senators also said no to Republican proposals to expand permission to carry concealed weapons and to focus law enforcement efforts on prosecuting gun crimes.
The pro-gun lobby fears that even the most minor of controls will lead to more restrictions later. That’s nothing new. The gun advocates have held that belief for as long as the issue of controls has been around. They use the Second Amendment as their shield against controls.
It is very difficult to overcome the fear gun owners have, including the many people who have purchased guns in recent years, that they need a gun for protection. Their fear is real even though very few people have ever had to use a gun in a situation in which they needed protection. The majority of gun owners are against controls. There are a few who believe background checks are needed for the sale of guns at the numerous shows where guns are sold and traded.
Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri voted against controls. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri voted for expanded background checks. The Kansas City Star called the handling of the gun safety package by the Senate as “cowardly and contemptible.” The Star in its editorial blasted the senators who voted no for not discussing the controls “openly and publicly.” President Obama called it a “shameful day” in Washington.
The former member of the U.S. House who was wounded by a crazed gunman, Gabrielle Giffords, wrote an op-ed for The New York Times. She said a majority of senators “gave into fear and blocked commonsense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.”
Efforts will continue for some gun controls. We don’t expect those efforts to be successful. Americans want their guns. They don’t want any kind of controls, even some that make sense. That’s why we weren’t surprised by the action in the Senate.