published Friday, April 19th, 2013

Senate never meant to expand gun checks

  • photo
    Jackie Barden with her children, Natalie and James, stand together as President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House on Wednesday. The Bardens lost their youngest son, Daniel, in the Newtown school shootings.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The U.S. Senate's stunning defeat Wednesday of a measure to expand background checks for purchases of all guns, not just the 60 percent sold by licensed gun stores, is an unusually pathetic symbol of the bought and cowardly members of the Senate who fear the gun lobby and the NRA's campaign clout more than they care for public safety.

It also is a memorably graphic insult against the express wishes of nearly 90 percent of Americans who, polls confirm, believe that every gun purchase should require a background check to help stem the sewer of gun sales that arm criminals and the mentally deranged, that breed crime and mass murder, and that account for many of the nation's 98,000 annual gun deaths.

The 46 senators, nearly all Republicans, who blocked this bill included Tennessee Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, and Alabama Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby. They and their misguided colleagues all condoned the lies that the gun lobby and its Senate lackeys said about the bill.

The truth is that the bill simply would have closed the background-check loophole that allows 40 percent of the nation's gun sales to be casually sold, without any regulation, through personal and online ads, or out of car trunks at public gun shows or in alleys and elsewhere.

Our own senators, however, indulged and condoned claims that the measure would curb Second Amendment rights, when that is not true. They echoed the lie that universal background checks would allow establishment of national gun registry; or that it would allow the federal government the means to take away Americans' guns. It would do neither. In fact, the bill expressly banned a gun registry. And the U.S. Supreme Court already has held that gun ownership, while properly subject to reasonable regulation, is a personal right under the Second Amendment that cannot arbitrarily be denied.

Yet the 46 senators who voted against the measure, preventing the majority of senators from achieving the 60 votes needed to squelch a filibuster, helped shift the focus from gun safety in the wake of more mass murders, to gun rights that were never contested. They argued that the law wouldn't stop crime, when in fact no law actually stops crime: It just creates a punishable offense that can be investigated and prosecuted, and with enforcement, become a deterrent to crime.

These senators, our own senators, just caved before the NRA's amalgamated gun lobby when they should have stood up in behalf of a measure that would help take guns out of the hands of robbers and gangbangers. They failed their duty to help curb gun-runners who take guns purchased under the loophole in easy-sales states into states and cities that do require checks for all gun purchases, or who take them across the southern border to trade with Mexican drug cartels.

This city's esteemed favorite son, Sen. Corker, joined in the chorus of hollow excuses and pretended good intentions. "Like most Americans," he intoned, "I want to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and dangerous mentally ill people" "Unfortunately," he wrongly claimed, the provision to require universal background checks "overly burdens a law abiding citizen's ability to exercise his or her Second Amendment rights and creates uncertainty about what is and is not a criminal offense when it comes to gun ownership."

What baloney. That's merely the sort of political double-speak that the anti-background-check cohorts use to camouflage their political cowardice of the gun lobby -- a lobby than includes powerful gun manufacturers' support of the NRA for the sole purpose of sustaining this nation's enormous volume of gun sales.

As it turns out, the Senate's novel agreement last week to allow debate on the amendment to proceed was apparently a contrived piece of political theater. In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre of 26 children and teachers, Republicans who knew they intended to oppose the measure decided to allow the amendment to come to the floor of the Senate for show, only to crush the hope of reform. Their earlier pretense of sympathy to the families of slaughtered innocents is a cruel as it gets.

This nation hasn't passed a meaningful reform of gun laws for 20 years, all because our representatives let a tiny minority of NRA extremists dictate to them. Until Americans convince our senators and congressmen this will lead to their defeat, they aren't likely to change their minds, or to listen closely to their conscience.

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aae1049 said...

There are more deaths and serious injuries from allowing children to operate scooters and bikes without helmets. Car accidents kill more teenagers than guns. Let's focus on real problems. The fact is criminals are never going to give up their guns, and will always be willing to sell one to a crazy person. We lost drug wars, attempting to regulate morality, and we will lose gun control. Regulations simply create a new market.

April 19, 2013 at 8:36 a.m.
jesse said...

Corker and Alexander were elected to reflect the views of the people of Tenn. By their vote on this issue that's exactly what they did!

The Chattanooga Times has always been out of step w/the area they do buis. in !You would think by now they would have picked up on the fact that Chattanooga ain't N.Y.C. and never will be!!

April 19, 2013 at 10:04 a.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Why are leftists so eager to give up their rights?

Senators take an oath to defend the Constitution. For once they honoured that oath.

April 19, 2013 at 12:19 p.m.
gjuster said...

If your 90% statistic was accurate - wouldn't that have been reflected by the Senate. It was another made up statistic. By the way - statistics and polls do not trump the constitution.

April 19, 2013 at 12:56 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Pathetic is this editor. He can't be replaced quickly enough. I've given up on reading an apology to the hundreds of thousands in suburban Memphis he called racists, either ignoring or not understanding the facts of the school issues out there.

April 19, 2013 at 1:15 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

"By the way - statistics and polls do not trump the constitution." - gjuster

Such a pithy comment. Too bad it's completely irrelevant in the context of this debate. The proposed legislation did not "trump" the Constitution or attempt to circumvent or detract from it. You would still be perfectly free to bear arms. And no, it wouldn't have prevented all bad guys from killing people with guns. But it would have at least made it a little more difficult for some of the felons and the psychos to gain access to them. It could have maybe decreased by a little, at least, the numbers of mass shootings or homicides that take place every year, and done so in a way that did not "trump" or trample your constitutional right.

April 19, 2013 at 2:02 p.m.
timbo said...

Here's a little information for you Harry.

Gun ownership is overwhelmingly white people. Whites commit murder at a rate of two per 100,000 people. On the other hand, Blacks kill murder at a rate of 20 per 100,000 people. This is less than most European countries and is roughly equal to Japan and Australia. They are less than 20% of the population and they responsible for over 50% of the murders in this country. Since the large majority of black people live in urban areas, and these areas have draconian gun laws, it would seem that the majority of people ignoring gun laws are Black. Why not concentrate your efforts in the place that will do the most good?

How many gun shows do you think are conducted in the ghettos of Chicago?

Not to mention the fact, that Eric Holder's Justice Department did not prosecute the thousands of people who tried to get guns illegally through the registration process. He prosecuted lesson 50.

Although I know that liberals like futile emotional gestures, Increasing registration will not do anything to stop the guns in the black community and from crazy people getting guns.

Harry Austin has had a long history of supporting power structure causes locally and whatever harebrained liberal scheme the Democrats supported. Nobody deserves to be retired more than Austin. Good riddance.

April 19, 2013 at 2:23 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

And what makes you think you'll find Pam Sohn's brand of liberalism any more to your liking, timbo? I'm sure that her left-leaning editorials will still manage to get your rightie tightie whities in a wad.

April 19, 2013 at 2:45 p.m.
timbo said...

Rickaroo.....You said, " But it would have at least made it a little more difficult for some of the felons and the psychos to gain access to them. It could have maybe decreased by a little, at least, the numbers of mass shootings or homicides that take place every year, and done so in a way that did not "trump" or trample your constitutional right."

Bull....If the Obama keeps it's sorry percentage of prosecutions of felons trying to get guns it will do no good at all. Without recognizing where the majority of the problem is without screaming racism it will never be fixed.

This is just feel-good liberalism on steroids. To keep using this tired old diatribe about guns is useless. No one is listening.

As far as our new liberal editorial writer, at least she doesn't live in Sequatchie County. She will have to try pretty hard to be worse than Austin. Austin was not only liberal, he was dishonest and a shill for the power structure in Chattanooga. He still thought that Ruth Holmberg owned the Times Free Press.

Again, good riddance.

April 19, 2013 at 2:58 p.m.
NirvanaFallacy said...

So Obama and the liberals kept saying that they deserve a vote. Well they got a vote and because it didn't go his way that means he gets to throw a tantrum about it - Ridiculous.

April 19, 2013 at 3:08 p.m.
Leaf said...

You people know the NRA owns these politicians. Don't try to pretend otherwise.

April 19, 2013 at 3:24 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

timbo, I notice that you often use the term "feel-good liberalism." You seem to think that liberals are just bleeding hearts and base everything on emotion. That's funny. Especially in light of the fact that you righties are the ones who base your entire ideology on nothing more than "feel-good-ism." You believe in trickle-down but it has been proven over and over again not to work. Yet you keep believing in it because it just SOUNDS so good and FEELS like it SHOULD work. You believe in individual freedom without government interference but you just base your notion of individual freedom on something that SOUNDS and FEELS right. It would be impossible to have complete individual freedom in any society without devolving to chaos and anarchy. You say you believe in an unrestricted free market and of course that SOUNDS good but we already know the perils of an unrestricted free market (the Gilded Age and the robber barons of those days have already shown how unbridled capitalism spawns monopolies, yields to greed, and it serves only to enrich the few while it starves and oppresses the many). There is not one thing that you conservatives stand for that is not based on emotion. You have no facts or evidence to prove that any aspect of a nation without a strong federal government actually works. Sir, you conservatives are in fact the "feel-good" party - short on thought, big on meaningless emotion.

April 19, 2013 at 3:37 p.m.
NirvanaFallacy said...

Rick no one thinks we should eliminate all regulations and become an unrestricted free market. Furthermore, no one talks about trickle down economics except for liberals. There is not one economist that has ever even argued for such a thing. You can criticize the right's position, but at least try and have a basic understanding of what you are criticizing first.

April 19, 2013 at 4:26 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

NF, many conservatives do not like the term "trickle-down" as they consider it a pejorative. And yes, most economists would say that technically there is no such thing as a trickle-down theory. But simply calling it something that sounds a little more sophisticated,, like supply-side economics, doesn't make it any more valid. It still stinks. It flat out doesn't work. Yet most conservatives still subscribe to such a theory. Name me one conservative who believes in raising taxes on the rich and maybe then you can tell met that I don't have a basic understanding of what I'm criticizing.

Tax breaks for corporations and for the rich, which is at the heart of what trickle-down (er, pardon economics) is all about, do NOT create more jobs, increase spending, or grow the economy. When the rich have more money they don't circulate it into the economy, they merely invest it and accumulate more for themselves, and at a lower tax rate than those who work for their money. And the only thing that really creates more jobs is more demand, which would come from the working/middle class having more money to SPEND, not the rich having more money to INVEST.

You can criticize my criticism but at least try and have a basic understanding of what YOU are criticizing first.

April 19, 2013 at 5:29 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

BTW, as for your comment that "no one thinks we should eliminate all regulations and become an unrestricted free market"...yeah, right. Tell me another one. They don't want to do away with all regulations in the same way that they don't want to do away with government entirely either. They just want to "shrink it down small enough to drown it in the bathtub" (Grover Norquist).

April 19, 2013 at 5:41 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Excellent commentary, TFP. Clearly, we have too many opportunists like Senators Corker, Alexander, Chambliss, and Isakson in public office. The fact that any U.S. Senator would undermine the public and work to prevent sensible and more effective regulations of guns is a national disgrace – shame, shame, shame.

April 19, 2013 at 9:13 p.m.
AndrewLohr said...

Yeah, keep a list of people not allowed to have guns (and why not), so any gun seller can see if the would-be purchaser is on the list.

But it would be unconstitutional to require the gun buyer to show photo ID.

April 19, 2013 at 10:21 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

AndrewLohr said: "it would be unconstitutional to require the gun buyer to show photo ID."

I believe this is wishful thinking on your part, Andrew. It’s not unconstitutional to establish and require citizens to meet sensible standards for registering guns. It’s also not unconstitutional to ban the possession of “dangerous and unusual” weapons.

April 20, 2013 at 6:20 a.m.
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