The bill, a bipartisan miracle in the age of polarization, springs from nothing more than a simple, common-sense premise:
People considered too dangerous to be allowed to board a plane are also too dangerous to be allowed to saunter into a shop and buy powerful weaponry, like Orlando shooter Omar Mateen did.
Yet here we are, at the edge of our seats, as if Tuesday’s presentation of a bill to keep terrorists from buying guns on our own turf were an NBA championship match and not the least we can expect from Congress.
After failed votes Monday on four separate Senate measures to close loopholes on background checks and keep suspected terrorists away from guns, finally a bipartisan bill was presented with Dream Team-like hoopla Tuesday.
This one should be a slam dunk. Who wouldn’t want to keep gun-buying power away from at least one kind of American, those on the federal no-fly list? But don’t count on it, despite the compromises made by senators to address every possible objection. To safeguard Second Amendment rights, the proposal guarantees the right to appeal — and the federal government would pick up the tab for people who contest their exclusion and win.
For the bill to pass the Senate, a considerable number of Republicans would have to back it even if every Democrat voted for it. But as preposterous as it sounds, that remains uncertain given obstinate senators — like Miami’s Marco Rubio — beholden to the National Rifle Association.
“Stop the politics with this issue,” said Sen. Kelly Ayote, a New Hampshire Republican and a drafter of the bill. Another senator seemed to anticipate the bruised feelings of the all-powerful NRA lobby by framing the gun bill as “a national security issue.”
Will 49 dead be a big enough number for Republicans to pass baby-step gun control?
And possibly more than 49, according to Sen. Bill Nelson, who appealed for passage of at least this bill to address the horrific Orlando killing, the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. Some of the injured still in the hospital, he said, may not make it.
Or will Americans, once again, see proof that Republicans aren’t willing to take even the most modest of steps to keep killing machines away from killers?
It’s not impossible to keep radicalized Americans away from guns and still preserve the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns.
We’re not helpless. We’re only being held hostage by obstructionist Republicans doing the bidding not of the people, but of the NRA. Why? Follow the money. The NRA’s campaign donations and influence keep the same do-nothing lawmakers in office. And so, the “thoughts and prayers” cliché after a shooting has become Republican code for no action on gun control. No sir, we’re not going there, not this time, not ever. No effort to write another narrative, one with a more hopeful ending.
We’ve lost our ability to sustain our sense of horror in any meaningful way.
The answer is always the same. We love our guns. We embrace that Second Amendment like a true love. We value it more than life itself, more than peace of mind, even though, as one senator put it, “rights have boundaries” too.
On gun control, common sense is elusive.
We lie in wait for the next killing field — 32, 27, 49, what’s next?
Before all the dead are even buried we pedal back into our respective partisan corners, offering victims only the consolation of empty thoughts and prayers.