I’m beside myself about the gun vote yesterday. Every time someone brings up the subject or I read another story about the reasons why 46 of our elective representatives in Congress failed to support sensible gun control legislation, my heart races. It’s racing right now. First, let me quickly clear something up in case you don’t know.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, historically a gun rights advocate, voted FOR the bans on assault weapons and large magazines, and initially voted FOR the expanded background check legislation. He changed his vote to a NO in order to have the ability, as Majority Leader, to bring the measure up again (parliamentary procedures). So don’t send him hate mail.
President Obama is as angry as anyone and quickly reminded us that the fight is not over. And it isn’t. One of the greatest reasons why the NRA/gun lobby is so effective is because they’re successful in getting their troops in line. The NRA has roughly three million members, depending on whom you ask. The population of the U.S. is over 300 million. Yet when you hear about senators’ offices being flooded with phone calls, emails, and texts, it is not we who support the Manchin-Toomey amendment they’re talking about. It’s the gun lobby. Are we really so lazy that we’re okay sitting back and letting the parents of the Newtown victims do all the dirty work? Have you called? Have you emailed? Emails are easy, and while several of my missives may have fallen on deaf ears, several did not. Just Tuesday, I received a note from Montana’s Jon Tester explaining why he’s my friend: “The Manchin-Toomey amendment is carefully crafted to make our communities safer while strengthening the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. Having read the amendment closely, I believe it strikes a careful balance, and I will support it.” He made other points, all illustrating his commitment to educate his gun-loving constituents on the reasons why they would NOT be affected adversely by this sensible, meaningful bill. How can North Dakota be so different? Yet Democrat Heidi Heitkamp voted No. Flood her offices with phone calls and emails. What do you have to lose?! Nothing.
At dinner with friends last Saturday night, we were discussing the issue of gun control. My overarching take on the subject is, and has always been, clumsy but passionate. In my heart I believe, simply, that less guns means less death – if not tomorrow than somewhere down the road. And while I hate to compare apples with oranges, consider the smoking issue. However we did it – turning smokers into modern-day pariahs – less cigarettes has resulted in less death. I’m aware there’s no equivalent amendment in our constitution guaranteeing a person’s right to smoke (and everyone still has that right, just in fewer places) but, like MADD, we’ve adjusted our mindset and our expectations of each other. In regard to gun legislation, Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker this week got it on the nose:
“It’s true, too, that a background check would not have stopped Adam Lanza, who had no criminal record, and whose mother had reportedly bought the guns he used in Newtown. But laws influence culture, just as culture influences laws, and if Congress enacted a serious piece of gun-control legislation perhaps that might initiate a subtle shift in American attitudes toward guns, and that might eventually lead some parent with a deeply troubled, deeply isolated son fascinated by violence to think twice before turning the family home into a munitions depot. Conversely, if lawmakers won’t pass even a modest reform supported by the vast majority of Americans, they will be capitulating to the N.R.A.’s corrosive view that the only answer to gun violence is more guns.”
In fact, that’s not the answer. From Ezra Klein’s Six facts about guns, violence, and gun control (The Washington Post, July 2012):
“Last year, economist Richard Florida dove deep into the correlations between gun deaths and other kinds of social indicators. Some of what he found was, perhaps, unexpected: Higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness were not correlated with more deaths from gun violence. But one thing he found was, perhaps, perfectly predictable: States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths.”
THIS IS NOT OVER. Flood the Senate with your thoughts. Just one email. Just one text. You’ll sleep better tonight.