Out of 100 of the people elected to one of the highest offices in the country, 31 opposed having a conversation on a law that gets rid of the two biggest loopholes in background checks on gun sales. This is outrageous.
Rand Paul (R-Ky.) led the charge against starting debate on a bill to expand background checks on gun sales. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons
This is one of those moments that makes me cringe at American politics. I realize that nothing about 31 senators voting not to begin debate on
that would expand background checks to online sales and gun shows is surprising. The gun lobby is one of the most effective in the country, and a main tactic of theirs is to kick and scream at every possible point in the process, but the simple facts here are hard to stomach.
Out of 100 of the people elected to one of the highest offices in the country,
having a conversation on a law that gets rid of the two biggest loopholes in background checks on gun sales. Having debate doesn't stop them from opposing the legislation or from filibustering it. It's just a show of solidarity with the gun lobby (not with gun owners,
who overwhelmingly support universal background checks
), one that will be remembered and rewarded with A ratings from the NRA and campaign money in their next election.
Let's not pretend like this is some great mystery. The New York Times reports that
thousands of gun sales happen through loopholes
in the background check system. People with a history of violence or severe mental illness who are federally barred from buying a gun are allowed to do so, most commonly through online purchases and at gun shows, where sales can happen without a background check.
To be sure, forcing background checks on these sales is not an airtight defense. That's the gun lobby's counterargument: background checks don't prevent murder. Except in the aggregate, they do. It's easy enough to point to examples where a background check would not have helped, but a strong background check system would be a deterrent to enough sales that fewer violent and mentally ill people would get guns, and those that did get a gun would have less of a selection to choose from.
But 31 Senators don't want to have that conversation. Two red state Democrats (Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Mark Begich (Ak.)) 29 Republicans would rather protect the gun lobby's profits and hide behind arguments that fall over with any real scrutiny. American voters have a short term and a long term solution to this. In the short term, punish them politically. Vote against them, write op-eds, etc. In the long term, we need to fix the campaign finance system. The gun lobby has much more power than a group of voters many times its size. That's destructive and it has to change.