The Senate, ‘Getting Something on the Floor’ and Trusting it’s not a Dead Child.


One wonders what crisis actually means within the boundaries of Washington, D.C. The
91% negative public opinion of Congress would be a crisis in any other
organization, but not the House or Senate. There such things are shrugged off, ducking
into a cab for that evening’s fund-raiser, still somewhat overstuffed from the earlier
luncheon fund-raiser. A sturdy stomach and liver are congressional
essentials—ethics, compassion or even common sense not so much.
Thus we arrive at Harry Reid’s Tuesday
announcement that Diane Feinstein’s assault-weapons ban did not have the
support of enough members to get it through the Senate as part of the gun
control bill.

A bi-partisan shortfall, the blame for this one can’t fall
entirely on Republicans. Paraphrasing Reid, “I have to get something on the
floor that will pass and this isn’t it.”
We have a gun problem, friends. Both
Left and Right know it, but reason can’t seem to find reasonable solutions in
all the glare and hectoring, hype and finger-pointing. I think they are reasonable men and women, for the
most part, but constant deadlock is getting to be a hard sell with the public.
We’re weary of each week bringing yet another shooting disaster in a theater or
school or shopping mall. The National Rifle Association’s solution is more
guns. Armed vigilantes in the schools somehow don’t soothe the parents of
at-risk kids.
Now, just for the record, I have been a
lifetime hunter and skeet-shooter. I’ve always owned and been around shotguns
and rifles, but somehow never felt the need of a handgun in the bedside table.
Nor, since my Army days, have I ever been inclined to own or fire an automatic
assault weapon. I know the argument on the gun-nut side, but if we’re sensible
and stop glaring at each other, assault-weapons are not relevant to our Second
Amendment rights.
But it is the 2nd Amendment, so it must have been pretty high on the
Framers’ priority list. In their day it was and in their day they specified the
need for a ‘well regulated militia.’ That was important to them as well, having
just fought for their freedom with pretty much rag-tag militias. But I won’t
get into that, it’s an issue that generates too much heat and not enough light.
Yet, at the time of the amendment, the standard for
rifles, pistols and bird-guns was muzzle-loading. Bird-guns might have two
barrels and pistols up to six chambers, but cartridges
(what we call bullets, which are just the lead part) had not been invented.
You made your shot (or shots) and then had to tip some powder into the barrel
or chamber, tamp it down with a rod, slip a piece of paper down against the
load before dropping in shot or a lead bullet. If it was bird-shot, another
paper had to be rammed in. Then, a ‘cap’ had to be placed under the hammer to
ignite the whole works. You’re getting tired of reading this, I can tell. It was a tiresome process, particularly when
someone equally frightened was coming at you with intent of bodily harm.
In the time it takes to read ‘tamp it down with a rod,’ an AK-47 will fire 30 rounds and, in a
single second, another clip can be shoved in. Lickety-split, the AK-47 was made for holding off hordes of
people. It has no peer in the holding off
hordes
department. I used to shoot black-powder muzzle-loading guns. They
were fun, accurate and made a lot of thrilling smoke. They were not quick.
So it’s impossible that the Framers
could have conceived of today’s circumstances and on that note, Antonin Scalia,
perhaps our most conservative Supreme Court Justice, is what is termed an originalist. He feels (and makes an
elegant case for) the Constitution being interpreted in the times during which it was written. His point is, if the
nation wants to add or detract from that document, it must do
so by making laws rather than
attempting to interpret the Constitution by today’s standards.
The Senate has just attempted to make
such a law and failed. It did not fail because men and women of good faith
wrote a bad law, it failed because of
the money and power of the gun lobby, whose interests supersede the needs of
the nation and pay legislators to
vote in their interest, during limitless luncheon and dinner fund-raisers. We have been fund-raised out of congressional legislative
responsibility.
More children will certainly die,
perhaps your children, perhaps my children, perhaps their children. But they will be children, who look to us for
what they are unable to provide themselves—love, food, shelter and safety.
As a side-note, let me give you a
statistic. We are a nation enamored of numbers, indeed numbers have become the
guiding principle of our lives. I’m fond of saying “if you torture statistics
sufficiently, they will confess to anything,” but these statistics have not
been water-boarded: In the 237 years since we have been a nation,
1,171,177 Americans have been killed in wars we fought—all the wars, including those we still wage. In the 45 years just since 1968, 1,384,171 Americans
have died in gun related circumstances here in our own country. Two-hundred
thousand more than in all our wars, since only 1968.
Interestingly, the civilian gun deaths include both
accidents and suicides. More
interesting, the war totals include deaths attributed to bombs, land-mines,
heavy artillery and every single cause related to war. Even if you died by
illness, it’s in the numbers, which makes the comparison unequal, but even more
stunning.
So, I don’t have a solution for this,
but I have a suggestion and I think it merits support.
I want Harry Reid to
bring that ‘new’ gun law of his to the floor of the Senate, including the assault weapons ban. I
want him to require a roll-call vote by every single Senator—no exceptions—if a Senator can’t (or
won’t) be there, a proxy vote in the Senator’s name is required.
I am willing to see this bill
defeated, but I am not willing to see
it defeated by Harry Reid taking the pulse of the Senate and withdrawing (by anonymous
speculation) the only part of the bill that has teeth. We’ve had far too much
of that.
I want the names and you and your
children are entitled to see the
names.

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