Senators voting with the NRA over their own constituents

March 8, 2013

[RL takes precedence, and some days it does for my blogging too. Yesterday I wrote this up about the problem of background check legislation in the Senate, as key — oh, hell, all — Senators standing in the way are doing the bidding of the NRA and ignoring huge majorities of their own people. They will go on doing this, I figure, until held accountable. I should also note that I was amazed that I posted that black rifle with that caption and no one’s head exploded. I figure that’s because no one read this diary.]

A man of the people?...nah.

A man of the people?…nah.

As bipartisan negotiations over a universal background check bill have faltered in the Senate, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) chose this moment to introduce the NRA’s preferred legislation, which addresses mental health issues and ignores the gaping hole in the law permitting private gun sales (often called the ‘gun show’ loophole) with no background check.

Although groups dedicated to the reduction of gun violence, like Gabby Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions, see value in the bill — from a pragmatic standpoint, it will help deal with the one problem the NRA has picked out for its sacrificial lamb — they also acknowledge the big problem, private gun sales, that Graham’s bill will do nothing to solve.

And since Mayors Against Illegal Guns has released polling data on universal background checks for all gun sales, showing many legislators who enjoy the support and endorsement of the NRA, one of my own Senators, Jeff Flake of Arizona, stands accused of siding with the NRA by co-sponsoring their bill. He’s ignoring 90% of his own constituency to do it.

So, MAIG polled a variety of states and Congressional districts, looking for voters and their views on background checks. Many of the districts they polled are represented by A-graded, NRA-approved politicians. And the lowest percentage they could find in support of universal background checks — for all gun sales — was 79%. Arizona, my home state, not known as a bastion of deep ‘blue’ or liberal, progressive values, polled at 90%.

And yet, there’s Jeff Flake, my senator, co-sponsoring the NRA bill that fails to address the private gun sale loophole. Ignoring the people of Arizona. Before the expected objection about whether or not the NRA supports this bill is raised, let me point out that CNN quotes the NRA-ILA executive director supporting Graham’s bill:

The National Rifle Association announced its support for the legislation saying it would “improve” the current background check system.“This bill will create accurate definitions of those who pose serious threats and should be barred from the ability to buy or possess a firearm, while protecting the rights of law abiding citizens and veterans,” said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.

CNN also went looking for responses from gun control advocates, and got one from Giffords’ new group, Americans for Responsible Solutions.

“We are glad that Senators Graham, Flake, Pryor and Begich agree that America has a problem with gun violence. And we agree with their ideas for strengthening the NICS system” said Pia Carusone, executive director of the new group. “But they cannot ignore the fact that 40% of the guns purchased in this country are bought outside of the system all together –meaning dangerous people have easy access to guns.”

On the contrary — I think that ignoring the facts is precisely what the NRA and its agents in Congress mean to do. What I suspect the NRA will now do is lie to the American people, and present their bill as addressing the background check issue, despite the gaping loophole, 40% of all gun sales, that it fails to tackle.

Yes, I've called out a Democrat

Yes, I’ve called out a Democrat

Incidentally, Senator Flake isn’t the only one subject to some MAIG polling; they also show that Mark Pryor (D-AR), one of the Democratic co-sponsors of the NRA’s bill, is ignoring 84% of his constituency as well. Considering that the lowest percentage the MAIG could find in these states and districts was 79%, all of the NRA’s supporters may be going against the will of their own people, Senator Graham included.

Meanwhile, some writers are looking to blame the White House for controlling gun control advocates too much, in order to present a unified front. With a title like “How the White House silenced gun control groups,” this Politico article tries hard to make it look like Obama has hurt gun control advocacy. A writer could quote half of it for a pretty good hit piece, I’d say. Saved for the end, they quote Michael Barnes, a former representative in Congress and former president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Now, Barnes said, it would be “counterproductive” to the cause of gun control for any of the groups to make waves — even if they don’t believe Obama’s effort goes far enough.“It probably doesn’t go as far as some of us would like, but it’s a great program,” Barnes said. “They shouldn’t be putting energy into trying to make it stronger because it’s going to be very tough to pass this. A lot of people say it can’t be done. If I were involved, I would counsel against people saying it doesn’t go far enough.”

So, yes. It sucks that the fight to enact some sensible, amazingly popular legislation to reduce gun violence is this hard to win, but it is. And taking some progress over none is an easy choice. Some of this also applies to the NRA’s chosen bill, even. If everyone supposedly agrees on making the NICS database work better as a check on the dangerously mentally ill, then perhaps Congress can make quick work of it. But it’s not enough, and the NRA and their allies in Congress have very few of the people on their side.

Those few people, though, they’re definitely speaking up. Just for example, this “fire mission” that I found today. I guess it takes a particular mindset to be comfortable with comparing political advocacy to killing folks…and I guess ar15.com, the “Home of the Black Rifle,” qualifies.

They've found something black that they like!

They’ve found something black that they like!

Provided are the names of the members, party affiliation, and links to their E-mail contact page as well as their DC office phone and fax information.

They left out Dianne Feinstein’s info as a lost case, although she’s not the only one for them.

Dianne “lol don’t bother” Feinstein

One might think that the NRA, staking out such an isolated, fringe position on opposing background checks, would have political clout matching its far-right take, but no. Media Matters documented how the NRA has flip-flopped on this very issue, having supported background checks after Columbine. As I pointed out yesterday, they’re losing the support of gun manufacturers and gun rights advocacy groups. Even Bill O’Reilly of the raging spittle has referred to background checks as a reasonable position — perhaps not the best arbiter of that which is reasonable, but it shows just how far gone the NRA is now that Bill O’Reilly or even Lou Dobbs are to the left of them.

And yet, all it takes is a few Senators to turn, and even this most popular of all policies intended to curb gun violence will fall. So, I’m going to include the contact information again for the Senate Judiciary Committee. This isn’t literal combat. Don’t think of it as a ‘fire mission.’ But it can save lives, so…you know what, think of it as a war if you like. Because if the NRA wins, there will be casualties.

Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman, D-Vermont [202-224-4242] Dianne Feinstein, D-California [202-224-3841] Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member, R-Iowa [202-224-3744]
Chuck Schumer, D-New York [202-224-6542] Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah [202-224-5251] Dick Durbin, D-Illinois [202-224-2152]
Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama [202-224-4124] Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island [202-224-2921] Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina [202-224-5972]
Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota [202-224-3244] John Cornyn, R-Texas [202-224-2934] Al Franken, D-Minnesota [202-224-5641]
Michael S. Lee, R-Utah [202-224-5444] Christopher A. Coons, D-Delaware [202-224-5042] Ted Cruz, R-Texas [202-224-5922]
Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut [202-224-2823] Jeff Flake, R-Arizona [202-224-4521] Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii [202-224-6361]

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