If anything, the horror of the Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn., massacre of children and school personnel should have urged Congress to pass legislation for reasonable restraints on the trade in guns that contributed to the disaster.
The death of the first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School came on the heels of similar tragedies, in Aurora, Colo.; Tucson, Ariz.,; and Blacksburg, Va., not to mention the continuing slaughter of young people on the streets of many cities.
But someone must have forgotten to wake up the Senate. Or the senators don’t care much about children.
Or those supporting the sensible legislation underestimate the greed of the Republican senators who have been asked to go on record, in the face of the campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association, arms makers and dealers who support them.
In the last two weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved three gun safety bills. One would ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, like those used at Sandy Hook; it passed 10-8, 10 Democrats and eight Republicans. Another would require background checks on buyers in all sales, including private and gun show transactions; it, too, passed, 10-8, 10 Democrats and eight Republicans. The third bill would make illegally buying a gun for someone else a felony and stiffen penalties for the crime. It passed 11-7, 10 Democrats and one Republican (Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa) for, and seven Republicans against.
Based on that partisan committee split, observers, including some in the media, are already counting the three bills out.
It is expected that the Republicans and perhaps even some Democrats, also influenced by gun lobby money, will not even allow the bills to come to a floor vote. They will, instead, use their usual tactic of filibustering — requiring 60 votes, not a simple majority of 51 — to block full Senate consideration.
It is in some ways remarkable that the Republicans might do that, running the risk of associating their party with approval of the continued unrestrained slaughter of American children, to maintain an unrestrained flow of money from the NRA and the gun lobby to their campaigns. It is a strange position to take for a party that hopes to win elections.