The recent vote by the U.S. Senate not to approve the "background checks for gun buyers" bill does not signal the end of western civilization as we know it. Neither was this vote an act of deranged lunacy as some would have us believe. Instead, the vote on this passionately contested bill is a lesson in how democracy is supposed to function in a federal republic. The Founders would be pleased. The vote turned out to be very close because the overwhelming support for the bill that its’ supporters claimed simply does not exist among the population at large. A change of only six votes would have passed the bill. Sooner or later this bill, or a similar one, will pass, but probably not while Mr. Obama is president.
A look at how the senators voted shows that the matter is not a simple "red state-blue state" issue. Eleven states had a senator who voted for the bill and a senator who voted against it. Five of these states, i.e. Iowa, Ohio, Florida, voted to support Obama in 2012.
Six of the split-vote states, i.e. Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, voted for Romney. Five Democrats voted nay on the bill, four Republicans voted for it. This is all pretty much a wash that shows the issue is not clear cut enough to command an overwhelming majority for either side.
We have to look deeper to get some clues as to why the bill did not pass. The most visible supporter of the bill was Mr. Obama. Paradoxically, his bungling leadership is one reason the bill failed. In 2008 he insulted many millions of people, citizens of the country he wanted to lead, when he mocked them out by saying that those who oppose him don’t understand his virtues and instead "cling to their guns and their religion." This threw down more than a ‘line in the sand’ between the enlightened Obamites and the ignorant wretches who failed to fall for his line of patter.
Fast forward to the weeks before the senate vote on the issue in question. Mr. Obama did not make a serious effort to sell the bill in those states that might have been persuaded to support it. Instead, he spent almost all of his time holding rallies in states that already supported strict gun regulation, i.e. Connecticut, California, et al. As always, he seemed afraid to speak in front of an audience that might not cheer his every word.
The other place the supporters of the background checks bill failed themselves was that they made clear from the beginning of debate that they were only interested in background checks because they could not succeed in limiting the ownership of any guns, not just ‘military style’ firearms. Their self-righteous attitude which depicted all gun owners as being potential crazed mass killers alienated more rational people than it convinced. Especially Senator
Feinstein and Mayor Bloomberg made clear that they were not interested in much less than eliminating private ownership of firearms. Mr. Bloomberg expanded his nanny-state war on "Big Soda" to an assault on "Big Guns." He was applauded by the banners for spending $13 million of his personal fortune trying to influence public opinion in states other than his own. These same people spent much of 2012 railing against other wealthy people who spent their personal millions supporting candidates other than Mr. Obama. This hypocrisy did not go unnoticed.
At this point we need to calm down and become rational. There are already laws on the books which, if they are enforced, will prevent criminal activity. Legislation is not going to prevent insane acts by insane people. Legislation so far has not been able to prevent gang-bangers and druggies from blowing each other away for turf and profit. The nanny-staters have to abandon trying to impose their tastes on everyone else. Their mantra that "no one needs a gun" may be true. On the other hand, no one "needs" a Ferrari car or a Donna Karan handbag.
The biggest problem now is to face the fact that the solution to gun violence seems to lie somewhere in the realm of too complicated and too expensive to contemplate. Passing a series of "feel good" laws in a wave of sympathy for crime victims is not a good substitute for law enforcement or coping with mental health issues of identification and treatment. Politicians have to give up posturing to enhance their 2014 election chances or positioning themselves to grab the big prize in 2016. Our "leaders" have to stop playing the gotcha game on every issue. They have to start looking for solutions instead of getting even. Since 1952, the majority of our most effective governments have been bi-partisan. Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan all worked with Democrat majority congresses for at least six of their eight year terms. Clinton did the same with his Republican congress. Inflaming passions over gun ownership at this point has become a camouflage to hide the fact that our leaders have either no clue or no courage to deal with any of the long list of economic problems, social stresses, education issues or any other matters that in the long run effect our survival as a nation.
Weiland Ross is a Banner columnist.