April 18, 2013

Analysis: NRA is silver bullet for opponents of gun law

A stunning Senate vote falls short

By DAN BALZ/The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

Member of the North Florida Survival Group wait with their rifles before heading out to perform enemy contact drills in Old Town
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Members of the North Florida Survival Group are seen prior to a field training exercise in Old Town, Florida. The group is a staunch supporter of the right to bear arms and aims to teach “patriots to survive in order to protect and defend our Constitution against all enemy threats.”

Reuters

Barack Obama, Joe Biden
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President Obama and Vice President Biden arrive for a news conference Wednesday after the vote on the background checks bill.

The Associated Press

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Theriault, author of the recent book "The Gingrich Senators: The Roots of Partisan Warfare in Congress," added: "While it provided glimmers of hope that a bipartisan compromise could be forged in the Senate, in the end, it serves as a reinforcement for how dysfunctional Congress has become."

Few lawmakers were fully happy with the proposal that Manchin and Toomey put together. Liberals thought it didn't go far enough. They embraced it, but there were enough grumbles about it that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who has been a leader in the effort to enact new legislation, begged them not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In the end, only four Democrats -- all from red states -- opposed it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted no for purely procedural reasons.

What sank the amendment, however, was the near-unanimous opposition of Republicans, who argued that the proposed restrictions would infringe on Second Amendment rights.

Only four Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, backed the proposal.

There seemed no better opportunity in recent years for Congress to pass new gun control measures, given the public outcry after the Newtown shootings, which killed 20 children and six adults. Obama moved quickly, knowing that with each passing day the prospects for congressional action would diminish. He spoke out frequently and tried to rally not just public opinion but public pressure.

Reid, a longtime supporter of the NRA, brought a bill to the floor shorn of the assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity magazines, believing that would offer the best opportunity for passage of background checks. Manchin and Toomey worked for weeks to develop a compromise that would diminish the opposition from the NRA and draw more Republicans to its side.

"In many ways, everything was in place," Baker noted. "Public opinion. Two centrist senators. A full-court press by the president. Astute parliamentary measures by Sen. Reid."

Still, it did not happen.

The Post-ABC News poll found that 60 percent of people in gun-owning households said they could support a politician with whom they disagreed on gun control if they agreed with that person on other issues. That was almost the identical percentage as people who live in households without a firearm.

But members of Congress are mindful of who votes and who doesn't on hot-button issues and they have seen the NRA's power in past elections. That and the 60-vote threshold were enough to frustrate the desires of the majority for action.

 

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