On April 17, 2013, because of NRA intimidation, 45 cowardly senators voted to deny background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous people. Even though 90 percent of the American people, 55 senators, and over 70% of NRA households – an overwhelming majority– support background checks. The 45 Senate cowards, most but not all of whom were Republicans, voted against a bipartisan compromise offered by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Pat Toomey. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that, today’s vote “handed criminals a huge victory, by preserving their ability to buy guns illegally at gun shows an online and keeping the illegal trafficking market well-fed.” Compounding this shameful vote by these senators, all of this happened as Newton families and other gun violence victims looked on from the Senate gallery. A woman survivor of the Tucson shooting shouted “shame on you” after the Bill was defeated.
For many years, the NRA has been the most outspoken and aggressive lobbying groups working to block even common sense gun control legislation. Manchin said that the NRA’s decision to score the vote was the main reason his compromise on background checks failed. Without it, he argued, 70 senators — well above the 60-vote threshold needed — would have supported it.
The NRA’s words used to oppose the Senate amendment for gun control legislation are “a bald-face lie,” Senator Manchin told state media via telephone conference. Manchin said that those who have read the proposed legislation understand that it does not take away gun owner rights. Manchin further explained that prior to voting, he spoke with his constituents involved with hunting and shooting groups. They did not oppose the “common sense” legislation that was crafted over approximately three months, he said.
Manchin also said the NRA has told people that their rights to give guns as gifts to friends and familyor to buy or sell with friends and neighbors will be restricted which is simply not true. He explained that if a person lists a gun on the Internet, they would have to proceed with a background check of the buyer; however, an online sale to a friend or neighbor doesn’t make much sense.
Manchin’s co-sponsored amendment specifically states that a gun registry cannot be created and anyone attempting to do so would be charged with a felony and penalized with a prison sentence and/or fine. However, the NRA has said further gun control legislation would eventually lead to a national gun registry, another lie. The amendment calls for putting all of the names of prohibited purchasers, such as convicted criminals and those with dangerous mental illnesses, into the background check system. Manchin’s amendment allows a private individual to sell or give away a gun but someone selling at a gun show would have to have a licensed firearms dealer complete a background check on the person wanting to purchase the gun before it could be sold. Background checks would also be imposed on intrastate online purchases. Currently, individuals may buy guns from a dealer within his or her own state without going through a background check which Manchin calls a “loophole.”
Manchin has an “A” rating from the NRA and describes himself as a “proud gun owner” who understands the “gun culture.” He says his amendment protects the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners. I am also a NRA member but I will not renew my membership when it expires in October 2013.
Adolphus Busch IV, heir to the Busch family brewing fortune, resigned his lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association after the Senate rejected a series of amendments to the bipartisan gun control bill. In a letter to NRA President David Keene, Busch said that, “I fail to see how the NRA can disregard the overwhelming will of its members who see background checks as reasonable.” “The NRA I see today has undermined the values upon which it was established,” wrote Busch. “Your current strategic focus clearly places priority on the needs of gun and ammunition manufacturers while disregarding the opinions of your 4 million individual members.” Reached for comment on Busch’s resignation, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told The Huffington Post, “We disagree with his characterization, but we wish him all the best.”
Busch joined the pro-gun organization in 1975 and has spoken before of his love of hunting. But the NRA has moved in a direction that Busch would not follow. “One only has to look at the makeup of the 75-member board of directors, dominated by manufacturing interests, to confirm my point. The NRA appears to have evolved into the lobby for gun and ammunition manufacturers rather than gun owners,” he wrote.
“It disturbs me greatly to see this rigid new direction of the NRA.” Busch singled out the gun lobby’s reversal of its 1999 position in favor of universal background checks, as well as its opposition to an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines. “I am simply unable to comprehend how assault weapons and large capacity magazines have a role in your vision,” Busch wrote.
“Was it not the NRA position to support background checks when Mr. LaPierre himself stated in 1999 that NRA saw checks as ‘reasonable’?” Busch wrote, referring to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre’s testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in the wake of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. At that time, LaPierre said the NRA believed that universal background checks were a “reasonable” choice. The group even took out ads in major newspapers that read, “We believe it’s reasonable to provide for instant background checks at gun shows, just like gun stores and pawn shops.”
Despite the recent gun control setback, President Obama, Newton parents, and other gun violence prevention advocates vowed to continue the fight to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. I agree with the recent statement of ThinkProgress, “Everyday that we fail to pass comprehensive background checks is a day we put at risk the safety of our children, our law enforcement, our neighbors—indeed, the safety of all Americans. The price of the Senate’s [cowardly] inaction will be paid by the Americans whose names will be added to the list of gun-violence victims every day as a result.”
According to the Constitution, members of Congress are elected by the people to represent their respective states in conducting the business of government; they were not appointed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) nor any other lobbying group. If Congress passes term limits, perhaps lobbying groups would lose much of their influence over our elected representatives. In the meantime, however, many of the forty-five (45) senators who voted to side with NRA and not the American people, will be replaced in the 2014 elections, but that’s just my take.