With so many failures to its credit, it is no longer sufficient to say Congress is “broken.” It is on the brink of utter uselessness.
How else to explain, even in the face of the unspeakable horror of the Newtown massacre of women and children, and searing, individual tragedies like Hadiya Pendleton’s drive-by murder and the thousands of equally senseless gun deaths since then, the inability of Congress to move forward on even the barest gun reform?
And how to explain why the same politicians who would demand an immediate clampdown on our civil liberties in the aftermath of terrorist attacks like the Boston Marathon bombing — and whose zeal for indefinite detention, surveillance, warrantless wiretapping and even torture post 9/11 — is matched only by their determination to halt any expansion of background checks for gun purchases, even to people on the terrorism watch list?
Or their utterly supine obeisance to a gun lobby whose only interest is in hawking more deadly weapons, and expanding its presence to every sphere of our existence, from the coffee shop to the schoolhouse?
We are a country where 90 percent of Americans agree that we must strengthen our gun sales and trafficking laws — where nearly every sentient being sees the logic of preventing those convicted of violent crimes and domestic abuse, terrorism suspects or the criminally insane from getting their hands on weapons of murder. That includes an overwhelming majority of gun owners.
Who among us believes that we should be a country that condones, even encourages, the proliferation of weapons of war on our streets?
Do we want to be a nation where every teacher has an apple on the desk and an AR-15 strapped to her shoulder? Clearly, some do, including the madmen at the helm of the NRA, but they are a small, and freakish, minority.
And yet, our weak and ineffectual Congress will continue to dutifully serve them, and not us.
Despite the heroic advocacy of the Newtown families, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelley; Colin Goddard, who became a gun-control advocate after surviving the Virginia Tech massacre; Hadiya Pendleton’s mom and dad and so many others (among them, the first lady and the president), those who would make armed warlords of us all are winning.
They stand opposed to a ban on high-capacity magazines, which allow mass murderers like Adam Lanza and James Holmes and Jared Lee Loughner to do their deadly work.
They stand in favor of the proliferation of assault weapons like the AR-15, adaptations of military weapons like the M16 and the Soviet Kalashnikov (AK-47), which were designed for soldiers to make war on other soldiers, but which are now collectors’ items, gun show toys and the weapons of choice for killers to make war on American civilians.
They stand opposed to strengthened background checks, with some like Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., promoting “compromises,” like expanding background checks via the Internet, but making them disappear like SnapChat pictures, rendering them useless to law enforcement in the event of a crime.
Even the “compromise” crafted by Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania seemed poised to do as much harm as good.
Their failed amendment to the bare-bones gun reform bill that died in the Senate on Wednesday would have subjected gun reform states to the concealed carry permits of gun proliferation states — meaning New York would be powerless to prevent Texans and Arizonans from carrying guns on its streets.
Their bill would have spread the unprecedented, blanket immunity from civil suits enjoyed by gun manufacturers and dealers to individual, private sellers, and allowed gun dealers to sell handguns across state lines. That was the gun devotees’ version of “compromise.”
It seems that the gun zealots are determined to turn this country into one, giant version of the Wild West — only less safe than the genuine article, since Tombstone, Ariz., in the 19th century had stricter gun laws than we do today. You couldn’t carry your gun into a saloon in Tombstone back then. You can do so as a concealed-carry permit holder in an Arizona bar today.
The Second Amendment, for which the Southern colonies required the phrase, “a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state” — not, as gun zealots absurdly presume, so that citizens could arm up to overthrow the government the founders were creating but so that Southern militias could arm up to catch runaway slaves — is not endangered by gun control.
But we ordinary citizens, including our children, are endangered by the will of a zealot minority, and the ineffectual Congress that they continue to control.