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“The NRA’s Pyrrhic Victory”: Why The NRA’s Manchin-Toomey Senate Vote Win Is Really A Loss

Congratulations, National Rifle Association. Once again, you flexed your unparalleled political muscle and managed the rare political feat of defeating a proposal supported by 90 percent of the American people. Are you familiar with the concept of a Pyrrhic victory? It’s the kind that comes with an unsustainable cost. It’s the kind you just scored.

What’s the cost? There are three critical losses rolled into yesterday’s NRA win. For one thing, as I noted Tuesday, this round of the fight over guns has produced a new infrastructure opposing the gun lobby. Neither Americans for Responsible Solutions, founded by my old friend Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, nor Mayors Against Illegal Guns are likely to go away any time soon.

If you doubt it, read Gabby’s heart-wrenching op-ed in today’s New York Times. “Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s,” she writes. And understand that the mayors group is launching a new NRA-style scorecard to keep senators accountable for the votes they cast.

Don’t underestimate the power of these groups having concrete, potent issues to rally around: the indelible horror of Newtown, a bipartisan proposal to help prevent the next one, and a stark example of a fanatical special interest triumphing over the overwhelming will of the American people.

The second cost to the NRA in winning this fight is opening a clear, chasm-like gap between its position and the American people’s position. Poll after poll has demonstrated overwhelming support for universal background checks. The Huffington Post recently crunched the numbers and found that universal background checks are more popular than – I’m not making this up – apple pie, kittens and baseball.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that even in gun-owning households 86 percent of people support universal background checks. By opposing the proposal, the hoary National Rifle Association (and its even more radical brethren like Gun Owners of America) has created a wedge issue which smart activists and pols can use to cripple the organization. The NRA will be nothing once its members realize how inflexibly radicalized it has become.

And Americans for Responsible Solutions isn’t the Brady campaign. The NRA is no longer in a struggle with flat out opponents of the Second Amendment. “I’m very in favor of gun rights, and so is our organization,” Kelly said Tuesday, noting that he and his wife are both gun owners. “When you look at the polling data, most of the country stand with Gabby and I on this issue, that you can be pro-Second Amendment and pro-gun-rights; you can also be against gun violence and realize that there are certain things we can do to try to reduce violence in this country.”

Finally, as Greg Sargent pointed out yesterday, the history of gun control is rife with setbacks followed by victories:

Congress has repeatedly been spurred by shootings to act on proposals that originated in the wake of previous shootings. It has repeatedly taken years to pass gun control legislation. The Gun Control Act of 1968 passed in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, but it originated in the wake of the assassination of JFK five years earlier. The Brady Law passed in 1993, many years after the shooting of Jim Brady. Six years later still, after the 1999 Columbine massacre, the Senate passed a bill closing the loophole in the law (it failed in the House).

The NRA didn’t need to make this a fight. Given that the NRA used to support them, universal background checks can’t be that radical a threat to the Second Amendment. They could have read the polls and given a little ground. They could have accommodated the overwhelming will of the American people. Instead they chose the maximalist position and they scored a victory.

King Pyrrhus, who gave his name to the type of victory, is said to have commented after his signature event that “one other such would utterly undo him.” I somehow doubt NRA chief Wayne LaPierre made a similar comment yesterday, but time will remind him of King Pyrrhus’s lesson.


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, April 18, 2013

April 19, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The MarcoPhone”: Marco Rubio’s Life Is About To Get Complicated

Marco Rubio has had a pretty charmed political life. He rose quickly through the ranks in the Florida legislature, won a Senate seat without too much trouble at the tender age of 39, then suddenly found himself the “Republican savior” a mere two years after arriving in Washington. At a time when the GOP is desperate to appeal to Latinos, he’s a young, smart, dynamic Latino who could be their presidential nominee in 2016. What could go wrong?

Immigration reform, that’s what. Many elite Republicans feel, and not without reason, that while supporting comprehensive reform might not win them the votes of Latinos, opposing it will pretty much guarantee that those votes will be lost to them. And Rubio almost has no choice but to be one of the leaders, if not the leader, of the party in that effort. He can’t be the Great Latino Hope if he isn’t. Trouble is, lots and lots of rank-and-file Republicans, particularly the kind who vote in presidential primaries, don’t much like reform the way it’s shaping up. Sure, under the “Gang of 8” plan in the Senate it’ll take 13 years for a current undocumented immigrant to become an American citizen. But for many in the party’s base, that’s about 113 years too quick. Enter the MarcoPhone. Wait, what? Get a load of this:

Conservative bloggers immediately seized on portions of the bill funding expanded cell phone access along the border as evidence Rubio was supplying free phones to undocumented immigrants. Some commentators connected it to the “Obama phone,” a popular meme on the right last year about a program that provides discounts on phone service to the poor. Despite the moniker, it predated the current administration by decades and rose to prominence last year mostly due to a viral video of a female black Obama supporter talking about the program.

Rubio himself was confronted with the claim on Wednesday in an interview with conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham, who quoted from a blog post that read “Move over Obama phone, this is the amnesty phone.”

The provision in question doesn’t give phones to undocumented immigrants, it gives phones to people who live on the border so they can call the Border Patrol if they see people crossing from Mexico. But as Ed Kilgore says, “I’m having trouble feeling bad for Rubio getting a taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a Tea Party delusion.” It’ll certainly be an interesting test of Rubio’s and his team’s communication skills to see if they can squash this (they’re already trying).

What folks like Ingraham understand is that when you’re trying to gin up outrage about a big, complex piece of legislation, the way to do it is to find some component of the bill that is weighted with symbolic value and will hit directly on your target audience’s resentments and fears. It doesn’t matter how minor the provision is, or how much you need to distort its actual function and intent. All that matters is that it’ll get people pissed off.

“Death panels” was the prototypical example. It told people who feared increased government power and control that the Affordable Care Act would literally give heartless Washington bureaucrats the power to decide who lives and dies. It was not just a lie but an absurd lie, an insane lie. But it worked, at least well enough. Gun advocates who wanted to defeat the Manchin-Toomey background check proposal went around saying it included a “national gun registry,” despite the fact that the bill prohibited the government from ever making such a registry, because they knew that would play on the most paranoid fears of gun nuts who think that any moment the jackbooted AFT thugs are going to come busting down their door to confiscate their AR-15s. The MarcoPhone can function the same way. What does it tell people in the anti-immigrant portion of the GOP base? That a bunch if illegals aren’t just getting amnesty, they’re going to be getting freebies, paid for with your tax dollars!

If it isn’t nipped in the bud, this could be deadly for Rubio. His Tea Party credentials may be impeccable, but if he starts looking soft on the foreign horde to the south, a lot of Republican primary voters will start getting suspicious of him. It’s possible that now that it has been explained to them, people like Ingraham will back off, especially since the guy they’re attacking is one of their own. As long as they still consider him one of their own.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 18, 2013


April 19, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“All Worked Up About Guns”: The Ironies Of The Senate Gun Control Debate And Emotional Attachment Of Senators To Their Jobs

As a guy who works with words for a living, I marvel at the gun lobby’s gift for turning logic inside out. The bumper-sticker classic: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The post-Newtown twist: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” And this week we have the latest cynical talking point: Let’s not legislate with our emotions.

“It’s dangerous to do any type of policy in an emotional moment. Because human emotions then drive the decision. Everyone’s all worked up.” (Mark Begich, D-Alaska)

“The emotion associated with all the violent events over the last 3 or 4 years tends to cause us to lose sight of some pretty commonsense principles,” (Tom Coburn, R- Oklahoma)

“We should not react to these tragedies in an irrational manner here in the Senate.” (Richard Shelby, R- Alabama)

“It is largely a mistake to talk about issues in the wake of crisis, in the wake of tragedy.” (Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who also accused President Obama of using the Newtown victims’ families as “props.”)

I don’t know who put out the memo. But this patronizing line is a transparent attempt to devalue the outpouring of heartbreak from parents and survivors that has – at least temporarily – fueled a drive to do something, even something inadequate, to make the next massacre a little less likely.

The grand irony behind the insult is that no movement has been so successfully propelled by passion – so “worked up” – as the gun rights movement. This is a movement that feeds on fear and resentment. This is a movement driven in part by the paranoid expectation that the government is itching to confiscate all of your guns – and, one layer down, by the even darker paranoia that citizens need guns to defend against impending tyranny. And these are the people telling us to calm down and be reasonable?

From such phobic nightmares, what clear-headed, common-sense arguments arise? Arguments like these:

  • The answer to an armed lunatic in a movie theater is for the other patrons to pull out their concealed weapons and fill the air with lead.
  • Our current, loophole-ridden background checks don’t catch criminals, so tougher background checks are pointless. (By this reasoning, since our border fences aren’t stopping illegal immigration, there’s no point in building better fences.)
  • Every state has the right to issue concealed-carry permits, but no state has the right not to recognize permits granted in other states. (That got 57 votes in the Senate, just short of the 60 needed to pass.)

Of course, the real ruling passion Wednesday in the Senate was the emotional attachment of senators to their jobs. Not doing them. Keeping them.


By: Bill Keller, The Opinion Pages, The New York Times, April 18, 2013

April 19, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Caving To Fear”: The Senate Fails America

For 45 senators, the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a forgotten tragedy. The toll of 270 Americans who are shot every day is not a problem requiring action. The easy access to guns on the Internet, and the inevitability of the next massacre, is not worth preventing.

Those senators, 41 Republicans and four Democrats, killed a bill on Wednesday to expand background checks for gun buyers. It was the last, best hope for meaningful legislation to reduce gun violence after a deranged man used semiautomatic weapons to kill 20 children and six adults at the school in Newtown, Conn., 18 weeks ago. A ban on assault weapons was voted down by 60 senators; 54 voted against a limit on bullet magazines.

Patricia Maisch, who survived a mass shooting in Tucson in 2011, spoke for many in the country when she shouted from the Senate gallery: “Shame on you.”

Newtown, in the end, changed nothing; the overwhelming national consensus to tighten a ridiculously lax set of gun laws was stopped cold. That’s because the only thing that mattered to these lawmakers was a blind and unthinking fealty to the whims of the gun lobby.

The National Rifle Association once supported the expansion of background checks, but it decided this time that President Obama and gun-control advocates could not be allowed even a scintilla of a victory, no matter how sensible. That group, and others even more militant, wanted to make sure not one bill emerged from the Newtown shooting, and they got their way. A vast majority of Republicans meekly followed along, joined by a few nervous red-state Democrats, giving far more weight to a small, shrill and largely rural faction than to the country’s overwhelming need for safety and sanity.

Guns had not been on the president’s campaign agenda, but, to his credit, he and Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. came up with a solid package of proposals after Newtown that would have reduced the number of dangerous weapons on the street and in the hands of criminals. Mr. Obama traveled the country to promote it in 13 speeches, and he has spent the last weeks unsuccessfully trying to pry senators out of the pocket of the gun lobby.

The most important aspect of his proposal, in the eyes of many gun-control advocates, was the expansion of background checks, both because it closed an important loophole and because it seemed the easiest to pass. From 20 percent to 40 percent of all gun sales now take place without a background check, and the bill rejected on Wednesday would have required the check for buyers at gun shows, on the Internet and at other commercially advertised sales. It was sponsored by two pro-gun senators with the courage to buck the lobby, Joe Manchin III, a Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick Toomey, a Republican of Pennsylvania.

The critical need for this measure was illustrated by a report in The Times on Wednesday that showed how easy it is for criminals to buy weapons on the Internet without a look at their backgrounds. One widely popular Web site contains tens of thousands of private postings of gun sales, and The Times’s investigation found that many buyers and sellers were criminals. Some of the guns have been used to kill.

A vote to continue this practice would be hard to explain to constituents, so lawmakers simply invented reasons to oppose background checks. Some insisted it would lead to a national gun registry, though the plain language of the bill prohibited that. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said it would raise taxes. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said it would require checks even when a gun sale is posted on an office bulletin board. (There’s nothing wrong with that, but it wouldn’t.) Mr. Obama, after the vote, said those who made these arguments had “willfully lied.”

It’s now up to voters to exact a political price from those who defied the public’s demand, and Mr. Obama was forceful in promising to lead that effort. Wednesday was just Round 1, he said; the next step is to replace those whose loyalty is given to a lobby rather than the people.

“Sooner or later, we are going to get this right,” he said. “The memories of these children demand it, and so do the American people.”


By: The Editorial Board, The New York Times, April 17, 2013

April 19, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Many Is Enough?”: The Gun Report: April 18, 2013

Yesterday was dispiriting for the vast majority of Americans who, according to recent polling, want to see expanded background checks on gun sales. But another story that may have been overlooked, between the disappointing Senate outcome and the updates coming out of Boston, was this investigative piece from the Times’s National desk about Internet arms sales, dubbed “the gun show that never ends.” Reporters scoured online ads on Armslist, a self-described “firearms marketplace,” and found that several people who buy firearms are convicted felons who fail background checks, and many private Internet dealers simply look the other way. It’s an unregulated swath of the market that’s evaded government oversight, and, in the absence of new gun legislation, will continue to do so.

Jennifer Mascia

Micki Pickren, 52, was shot in the back of the head, the side of the head and the face by her boyfriend in Auburndale, Fla., Tuesday evening. Randall Scott Miller, 44, a former Marine, has been previously arrested for battery domestic violence and child abuse. The bullet in Pickren’s head was not able to be removed but she is expected to survive. Miller is at large and considered armed and dangerous.

Edith Hardy, 82, was sitting on the sofa inside her Chester, Pa., home Wednesday afternoon when she was shot in the neck by a stray bullet during a barrage of gunfire that also critically wounded a young man. Authorities have no motives or suspects. The critically wounded man was believed to be the intended target; he sustained a gunshot wound to the head and is on life support. Hardy is expected to survive.

The Delaware County Daily Times

A woman sleeping on a couch in a Hayward, Calif., home suffered head and neck wounds early Wednesday when bullets ripped through a front window. A couple was engaged in a heated argument across the street from the home right before gunshots were heard. The victim, a 24-year-old woman, was rushed to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery. Her condition was not known.


A 2-year-old boy is recovering from a gunshot wound after accidentally shooting himself in Gurley, Ala., Tuesday night. Deputies responded to a home on Church Street around 7:20 p.m. and found a child with a gunshot wound to the hand. Deputies said the unsupervised child shot himself. Deputies notified the Department of Human Resources. No charges are expected to be filed.

A crying 5-month old girl was found under a bed at a northwest Houston, Tex., apartment where two people were shot to death Wednesday evening. Police were called at around 6 p.m. after hearing the baby’s cries and found a man dead on the floor and a woman dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Police found a second man inside the bedroom who had also been shot in the head; he is in critical condition.

Houston Chronicle

A student who suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound Tuesday morning at a Temple, Tex., high school is in very critical condition. Officers found the 15-year-old student near the rear of the gym at Temple High School and recovered a handgun. The boy has not been identified, but the school confirmed that he is a member of the school’s ROTC program.


A 19-year-old man was shot twice in the torso by a fellow student at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Elgerondo Williams, 22, pulled out a small-caliber handgun and shot his friend after they argued over money owed on a bet over a video game. The victim is in stable condition. Williams surrendered to a police officer on campus after initially fleeing the scene.

A man was shot by his roommate several times and killed after a dispute north of Nixa, Mo., shortly before noon Wednesday. The victim died where he was shot, at the end of the driveway of the home that the two men shared with two other men. Deputies arrested the alleged gunman as he was trying to flee.

A man in his 20s is in critical condition after an argument ended in a shooting in Waveland, Miss., on Wednesday. Four or five men were fighting at a residence when one of them took out a gun and began shooting. Police questioned two of the men, but no arrests have been made.

Three men were shot in the street in front of a home in Bridge City, La., on Tuesday night. At around 7:20 p.m., the unidentified suspects pulled up in a gold-colored vehicle and opened fire. All three are expected to survive. Police have no suspects.

The Times-Picayune

Two people were injured in a shooting at a San Pablo, Calif., bar on Tuesday night. Police responded to reports of a shooting around 9:10 p.m and found two people who had been shot multiple times. They are expected to survive. No suspects have been arrested.

CBS SF Bay Area

Shootings in the Heart of Chicago and Grand Crossing neighborhoods in Chicago, Ill., left two men injured Tuesday night and early Wednesday. At 8:40 p.m. Tuesday, a 50-year-old man was shot in the shoulder as he left his home to inspect gunfire outside. At around 1:45 a.m. Wednesday, two people approached a 45-year-old man from behind and opened fire, fleeing on foot.

Chicago Tribune

According to Slate’s gun-death tracker, an estimated 3,514 people have died as a result of gun violence in America since the Newtown massacre on December 14, 2012.


By: Joe Nocera, The New York Times, April 18, 2013

April 19, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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