How many more people have to die before our increasingly useless Congress does the bare minimum to assure its constituents “we do occasionally give a smidgen of a damn about y’all?”
We can all reset our clocks now and begin the count following the defeat of the bipartisan compromise (eh) known as the Manchin-Toomey amendment. The vote on the measure was 54 in favor, 46 against — meaning it failed to reach the 60-vote threshold required to move ahead.
As fate would have it, four Republicans somewhat courageously volunteered to exercise their common sense in supporting it, though four Democrats densely voted no.
One of those Democrats included Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who said, ”This conversation should be about what is in people’s minds, not about what is in their hands.” She’s referring to a focus more so on the nation’s mental health system as it relates to gun access, but I translated that into her own anxiety about the National Rifle Association (NRA) running ads against her in the red state come re-election time.
Her argument is a crock far removed from the realities of the gun violence plaguing America, but for the sake of playing devil’s advocate, if she and others with similar talking points truly cared about our country’s awful mental health care, where is the push for more funding and advocacy?
I thought so.
Heitkamp playing such a crucial role in the amendment’s failure further highlights the frustration that an overwhelming majority of the public can be easily overruled by representatives from the tiniest states in the nation.
As the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza notes:
“The two senators from California, who voted for background checks, represent thirty-eight million Americans, or twelve per cent of the population. The two senators from Wyoming, who voted against the measure, represent five hundred and seventy-six thousand Americans, or less than two-tenths of a per cent of the population.”
I don’t have anything against those residing in states that can count more tumbleweeds as residents than actual human beings, but this madness has to end.
Here’s more good news for the gun lobby by way of the Washington Post:
A number of other amendments also failed to earn the 60 votes necessary to pass: A GOP proposal including a number of changes, 52 to 48; a bipartisan amendment to stiffen penalties for “straw purchasers,” 58 to 42; a GOP-backed amendment that would have permitted “national reciprocity” of state-issued concealed carry permits, 57 to 43; a GOP plan to extend gun rights for veterans, including those deemed unable to manage their financial affairs, 56-44; and a Democratic amendment to limit the size of ammunition magazines, 54-46.
It’s no wonder President Barack Obama dismissed the votes yesterday as “all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.” Obama is even more right for lamenting, “The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill.”
The President assured gun control advocates that “the effort is not over,” but it does seem to suggest that not much will be done until the results of the 2014 mid-term elections are known.
After all, if we can’t get Congress to pass a bill that would’ve extended background checks for prospective purchasers of firearms — a law many Americans already thought existed — what’s the likelihood of anything else getting done on this issue?
In the meantime, we can look for more bill-blocking antics from obstructionist Republicans. MSNBC will continue to lead the charge on covering gun control as FOX News keeps turning a blind eye.
Worse, people will die.
Not just in mass shootings, but every day on the streets of this country — something this watered down amendment would’ve at least helped decreased.
Hopefully, many of the cowards who buckled under pressure to maintain power versus doing the right thing will lose their seats next year.
That’ll be more than fitting, though it certainly won’t make up for all of the lives we’re sure to lose between now and then.
Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer and blogger. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick