From the outset of legislative efforts to reduce gun violence, expanding background checks was the keystone – other elements clearly mattered, but this one provision was largely seen as the point of the endeavor. When the popular proposal died at the hands of a Republicans filibuster, the gun-reform bill had been stripped of its heart.
In theory, the legislation could continue with a few uncontroversial provisions, but Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who has championed reforms in recent months, said there wouldn’t be any point. “This bill as written is virtually meaningless and without any significant gun reform,” Murphy told reporters. “I think we’re better off to go back to the table and try to work on this issue of background checks.”
Senate Democratic leaders agree.
The last whimpers of the gun control debate in the Senate played out in anticlimactic fashion on Thursday as lawmakers began the process of formally moving on. […]
Despite the push from proponents of stricter gun regulations, the amendments that received the most support in two days of voting were not the ones that tightened restrictions on weapons purchases, but the ones that loosened them.
You read that right. In the wake of a devastating incident in which a madman massacred children, some of the most popular policy measures in the Senate weakened limits on firearms.
Faced with no real options, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shelved the legislation. He said the larger debate on gun violence “is not over,” about as a legislative matter, the fight is indefinitely on hold.
Asked yesterday what the next step for the gun bill could be, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told the New York Times, “That’s a good question.”
As proponents pick up the pieces, a discussion will also continue as to how the effort failed, despite all of the support from the public.
It’s a multi-faceted dynamic, and I’m reluctant to oversimplify what happened by pointing to just one statistic or another, but Andy Kroll noted a detail that struck me as significant.
Here is what political power looks like: It’s the combination of money, intensity, and influence when it matters most. The NRA boasts all of the above. LaPierre and his NRA colleagues around the country know how to whip their members – 4.5 million of them by the NRA’s count – into a frenzy. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 1 in 5 gun owners had called, written, or emailed a public official; only 1 in 10 people without a gun in the household had done the same. In the same poll, 1 in 5 gun owners said they’d given money to a group involved in the gun-control debate; just 4 percent of people without a gun in the home previously gave money.
Having 90% of the public on your side certainly helps, but lawmakers also care about intensity of public attitudes. If support for gun safety is broad but thin, politicians take note of passionate opposition that’s narrow but deep.