President Barack Obama places his hand on the shoulder of Mark Barden, left, who lost his son Daniel in Newtown, during a news conference at the White House on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, about the defeat in the Senate of a bill to expand background checks on guns. They are joined by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, second from left partially obscured, Vice President Joe Biden, and Barden's wife and daughter. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

As a resident of Greater Boston, I realize that most of the public focus this week has been on the bombings at the Boston Marathon, which killed three and seriously injured dozens. The story is likely to dominate the headlines for days or weeks to come.

But there was a bitter irony embedded in this week’s news roundup, which included a Senate vote to filibuster legislation that would have expanded mandatory background checks for gun sales.

I’ve grown accustomed to craven political calculation… But I’ve yet to see an abrogation of the common will more brazen and despicable than this vote.

The bill, which comes amid a grim and incessant parade of mass shootings (most recently the slaughter of 20 first graders in Newtown, Connecticut) is a compromise forged by two NRA-approved senators, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey. It enjoys the support of 90 percent of the American public.

As a result of the Republican-led filibuster, we can expect to see more shootings by high-risk individuals who might otherwise have been prevented, or at least deterred, from purchasing weapons. More preventable deaths. More victims — adults and children from all walks of life — gunned down by design or by accident.

In this case, though, the culprits aren’t hiding. They are the 45 United States senators, including four Democrats, who voted against even allowing a majority up-or-down vote on the measure.

As an American who’s been tracking the folly of our political theater since Watergate, I’ve grown accustomed to craven political calculation. It’s more or less the religion of the Beltway. But I’ve yet to see an abrogation of the common will more brazen and despicable than this vote.

It would be easy enough to blame the psychopathic profiteers who fund the NRA and its sickening propaganda machine. But those folks are private citizens, and corporations, behaving in their own interest. They can only answer to what remains of their conscience.

The senators who voted to support this filibuster are supposed to answer to the people who elected them. That’s how democracy works. Or, in this case, doesn’t work.

None of the Democratic senators in question — Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — offered any sort of coherent rationale for supporting the filibuster.

Actually, Baucus offered a one-word response: “Montana.”

He and Pryor and Begich are all up for election next year. They are clearly convinced that bucking the NRA will get them smeared as gun-stealing socialist homosexuals who urinate on copies of the second amendment while listening to Jay Z with President Obama. Simply put: They care more about the gun lobby than their constituents.

The only way to fight this kind of bald corruption is by taking direct aim at the cowards in question.

I hereby call on all the major gun-control advocacy groups to focus on a single objective: a series of direct petitions aimed at these four democrats, as well as Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who supported the filibuster despite his friendship with Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot in the head at a campaign event two years ago.

It’s sad that we’ve reached this point in American democracy, where our elected officials can pander so flagrantly to a special interest with no fear of reprisal. But that’s where we are.

The petitions should be simply worded.

Something like…

I, the undersigned, being a lawfully registered voter in the great state of Senator [fill-in the blank] pledge not to vote for him/her until such as time as he/she approves a majority vote on expanded background checks for firearms.

This may sound facile. But if Max Baucus wakes up in a week to find that 200,000 of his constituents have signed this pledge, he’ll be left with no choice but to reconsider his vote. After all, the total number of votes he needed to win his last election was 219,000.

It’s sad that we’ve reached this point in American democracy, where our elected officials can pander so flagrantly to a special interest with no fear of reprisal. But that’s where we are.

Most of us can agree that the filibuster is an abusive practice, and that the gun lobby acts against the greater interest of our public safety. But the ultimate blame for this travesty lies with the senators themselves. They need an unmistakable reminder of who put them in office — and who can throw them out.


Tags: Barack Obama, Guns, Security

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  • Richard Barbieri

    There’s another way we can work. The NRA spent 3 million to buy legislators last year, but AARP spent 10 and Google 18. Let’s push every organization we can to add gun control to their lobbying standards. Google says “Don’t be evil.” Let’s tell them to buy back government from the gun lobby.

  • paul

    “He and Pryor and Begich are all up for election next year. … They care more about the gun lobby than their constituents.”

    It is possible that the law had less support among their particular constituents than among the US generally. And if they are afraid of the NRA, it might be because a significant number of their constituents find the NRA persuasive.

    • Futo Buddy

      yeah thats whats so unconvincing about this NRA boogeyman idea. millions of american are dues paying members, millions more agree with their stances on the issues.

    • Bruce Curtis

      Then there’s that whole 2nd amendment thing…

  • Futo Buddy

    “As a result of the Republican-led filibuster, we can expect to see more shootings by high-risk individuals who might otherwise have been prevented, or at least deterred, from purchasing weapons”
    which one of the recent tragedies was committed using weapons purchased without background checks? how could more have prevented anything?
    “psychopathic profiteers who fund the NRA and its sickening propaganda machine”

    3.5 million americans are “psycopathic profiteers”?

    “That’s how democracy works”

    we are not a democracy we are a republic

    Most of us can agree that the filibuster is an abusive practice, and that the gun lobby acts against the greater interest of our public safety.
    “us” who?

    • Sean McElroy

      FWIW a constitutional republic is a type of representational democracy but the concepts are closely interchangeable. In any case, the distinction does little to illuminate the fact that a measure supported by a supermajority of Americans (democracy) can be scuttled by a minority of US Senators through the practice of filibuster (constitutional republic.) Afterall, the senators are elected democratically to offices whose republican powers are elaborated in the US Constitution. Of course the US Constitution does not provide directly for the filibuster, that is an artifact of the Senate’s Rules. Indeed, the rules for filibuster were changed as recently as january of this year.

      The author of the article rightly points out that unless the constituents of the Senators who filibustered the background check bill opt to elect a Senator with a different inclination, then that Senator is empowered to attempt to forestall the legislation legitimately. This is precisely what happened with the Civil Rights Act of 1957. It was only through the insistence of Lyndon Johnson (D-TX), Senate Majority Leader at the time, to prevent any other legislation to come to the floor, that Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) set the record for filibuster, clocking in at 24 hours, 18 minutes. The filibuster was eventually defeated. Thurmond obviously felt strongly that the people S. Carolina who elected him, did not wish to see the US Government establish a national Civil Rights statute. Since then, the Senate Rules have loosened the restriction that a Senator hold the floor for the entirety of the filibuster proceeding, thus preserving Thurmond’s distinction (or infamy depending upon your inclination.)

      • Futo Buddy

        ironically this case is not about a majority attempt at expanding civil rights but infringing them. our govt is set up with checks and balances to prevent the tyranny of the masses, what you are calling democracy. for example we have no national referenda. i assume you are claiming that a majority of americans want whatever based on polls. the polls i have seen that have generated the 90% figures have either been worded in a misleading fashion and or are old. polls of the public are very fickle and easily manipulated. WBUR published a poll the other day that said only 49% wanted more gun laws. they also published the percent who wanted the laws to stay the same but for some reason left out the number of americans who wanted fewer gun laws.

  • gardenia

    Futo Buddy, go back to Islam, before you get to the point of No Return. Or, if you are already there, stay, with your mouth shut, tight.

    • Futo Buddy

      are you on drugs?

  • FreezinginNewHampshire

    The next time you go for a drive, note how many pro gun bumper stickers and little round NRA stickers you see as opposed to anti-gun bumper stickers (if any – I don’t recall seeing any recently). That should let you know how Americans really feel about gun control.

    • Futo Buddy

      i dont know why anyone would want less freedom

      • Bruce Curtis

        You must not know any politicians then. They always seem to want less freedom for everyone but themselves.

        • Futo Buddy

          i have noticed that. i usually consider them sub human so i was not including them

  • mikberg

    Gun control is no longer a national issue. It is a regional and state-by-state issue. Those states that want greater safety, like Connecticut and New York, can enact stricter gun control laws. Those states that don’t care about safety can leave things as they are. Massachusetts should just follow Connecticut’s lead and pass the same law. I would then feel safer than I do right now.

    • Futo Buddy

      really? do you even have any idea what the laws are here now or do you just “feel” like more would be better? which part of the CT laws do you think would make you feel safest if we had it here? i do agree that gun control should be left to the states.

      • mikberg

        Here’s what I think. Criminals will always get guns, no matter what. But it’s not criminals who walk into movie theaters, schools, shopping malls , or open meetings by congresswomen with the voters and start mowing everyone down; it’s crazy people.
        If crazy people in Massachusetts can’t get their hands on assault weapons or high capacity ammunition clips, I will feel safer.

        • Futo Buddy

          you confuse crazy with stupid. crazy people are just as resourceful as any other criminals. you can be crazy and also be a criminal especially if you go around killing people.

          your policy desire is already the law of the land in MA so you got your wish granted. half anyways, although MA does not share the records of people deemed insane with the NICS(thats the background check that by the way is already required when you buy a gun at a gunshow) “assault weapons” and standard capacity magazines are already banned in MA. maybe instead of asking for more gun laws you could work to try to get MA to share the records to be able to enforce the current laws and make the background checks actually capable of filtering out the insane. Can you please either get educated on the laws we have or stop asking for more laws?
          (ps if you want to feel safer get a gun)

          • mikberg

            You are right. I didn’t realize that we already ban assault weapons and limit clip sizes. But I knew that Massachusetts is ranked only 8th by the Brady Campaign, for states with tough gun laws. Massachusetts does not limit the number of firearms that can be purchased at one time. They do not report mental illness to the federal database. And there is no waiting period to buy guns.

            The states that agree with trying to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous (mentally ill) people should get together and pass uniform rules to protect the people in their states from letting crazy people amass an arsenal and then going out and causing a massacre. The states that don’t worry about that can leave their gun laws alone. There is no chance that there will ever be a federal law covering this issue.

            Getting a gun won’t make me feel safer. Someone in my own family might use it to commit suicide; a grandchild might find it and accidentally shoot one of his cousins; I wouldn’t take it with me to a movie theater or speech by my congressman; I don’t feel unsafe in my house.

          • Futo Buddy

            mike do me a favor and don’t read the brady website or read it very very carefully. for example their studies are garbage but you need to read them in detail to see why.

            just because we are not number one on that list does not mean our laws are not opressive enough.

            Why should the number of guns you can purchase be limited in MA?

            that concept is designed to stop straw buyers from buying a bunch of guns and taking them to a less free state to sell. only 8 states are less free according to brady so that alone would really limit the place those straw buyers could take the guns. The real reason why no one comes to MA to buy guns it bulk to sell is because the types of weapons available in MA is very limited and more expensive than other states because only special “ma approved” models with extra safty features can be sold here no one would want a MA approved model if a free state version is available. please see if you or deval can come up with one case of a straw buyer buying multiple guns in MA and selling them on the street.

            the waiting period thing is stupid in MA because we already have a waiting period, its called the 12+ weeks it takes to get a firearms permit in the first place. as far as i know california is the only state that has that and in california you do not need any permit to buy a gun and a pistol permit is granted at the gunstore for $25 dollars.

            here is where your other theory breaks down. adam lanza did not buy the guns his mother did with background checks so even if the states shared the information with the NICS nothing would have changed. she amassed the arsenal and failed to follow the storage laws in her state. i would say she paid the price for not following that common sense law.

            i think its the crazy people and not the guns we need to keep better track of.

            If you do not plan to store it securely, by all means don’t get a gun. even if you don’t have a gun you can still educate your grandchildren about gun safety if no one else has(and they have not in school thats for sure). its simple: “stop, dont touch, leave the area, tell an adult”
            you said you wanted to feel more safe. if not at home or in public where do you feel unsafe now? for me its a very reassuring feeling but i also store mine properly so i do not have to worry about the things that may happen if its not stored properly. i think safety is an individual responsibility and it would be pretty foolish to rely on the us govt to keep you safe given its track record

          • mikberg

            But you agree that Massachusetts should be reporting mental illness to the National database.

            It seems to me, when a person becomes crazy and starts buying guns to fulfill their massacre/suicide agenda, it would be helpful to make them wait to buy the gun (maybe they will cool off) and to limit their purchase to one gun per month. This might prevent
            spur-of-the-moment attacks on their former bosses who just fired them, ex-wives and their co-workers, and limit the number of people they can kill in the attack. No?

          • Futo Buddy

            it seems silly to even have a background check system at all if it does not contain the records.

            in mass permits are required did you see where i said that it can take more than 12 weeks in MA to get a permit? thats a pretty long time to cool off. are you concerned about people who spend all the money and time and effort to get a permit but then do not purchase any firearms but then “becomes crazy” in the period before that license needs to be renewed and decides to buy guns for a massacre? i dont think there are any examples of such a person.after waiting 3 months you pretty much buy a gun as soon as you have that license are you really suggesting that any of the homicidal maniacs who have recently been involved in these high profile shooting would have been prevented or been cooled off by an additional 10 day waiting period to buy a gun? were any of the guns used in these things purchased less than 10 days before they were used?
            the one gun a month thing was being promoted before these crimes as a measure to stop not to stop people from amassing so called arsenals

          • Bruce Curtis

            Very very few with a ‘mental illness’ are likely to commit mass murder but you have no problem with treating them all the same, right?

          • Futo Buddy

            all the records of mental illness are not the records that MA does not share with the NICS, that would probably be half the residents of the state, but people who are found mentally ill in a court is a much more narrow class and a higher standard. these are the records MA does not include in the background check. its legal under the 14th amendment to restrict individual people’s rights after a court proceeding, like how most states wont let people in prison vote(or own guns for that matter). i think its entirely prudent to say that people who have been commited involuntarily to a mental institution or have been found insane in a criminal proceeding have their gun rights limited at least untill they can demonstrate to just as high a standard that they are no longer insane. i dont think this will help really prevent any insane people from getting guns but when they do then we have something we can charge them with hopefully before they harm themselves or others and thats why we have the laws we have.

          • mikberg

            Well said.

          • mikberg

            I didn’t understand what you are saying. Could you explain your point?

    • J__o__h__n

      Actually the gun enthusiasts are trying to undermine state and local laws with a push for a national right to carry concealed guns.

      • mikberg

        That won’t pass the Senate either. It’s a stalemate there. I think the focus should shift to the states that want to do something positive.

      • Futo Buddy

        yeah we would not want anyone to travel to chicago with a gun otherwise someone might get shot there

  • anne sweeney

    Calling Senators Cowards ? Bradley Jay, has a movement against an Arkansas representative for the same name calling ? I guess it depends upon what side of these issues one is on. When 90% of the people once supported DOMA as did President Clinton, whom enacted the law. 90% were denied the right to referendum or to vote, the courts enacted new laws over and above the citizen view. Why doesn’t president Obama go to the Courts as he has done with many other issues and bypass the Senate and Congress ? We are part of a democracy only when convenient. Like Russia, Putin pushes what he wants through, we need to do the same. By executive order mandate new gun regulations. That way the NRA has no say in the matter !

    • Futo Buddy

      so you understand that 90% of the people in america can be wrong about something in a poll. polls can be manipulated to get whatever results you want,the poll question that generated that response was misleading. if any gun control laws are passed they will end up in the courts and god willing the courts will actually defend the rights of the minority against the will of the majority as is their role. you really want america to be like russia? you understand why we do not have referenda on the federal level right? which additional gun laws do you think oboma should mandate? (he already did something like 23 EOs about gun control but it sounds like thats not enough executive action. for you)

  • J__o__h__n

    I supported it but the odds of this bill passing the Republican House were zero. Unfortunately rural states are over-represented in the Senate. That isn’t going to change. I’d rather have Democrats that pander to the gun nuts representing those states than Republicans.

    • Bruce Curtis

      “Unfortunately rural states are over-represented in the Senate.”

      It’s that way by design. Otherwise an easily manipulated ‘majority’ would be trampling on people’s rights more than they already do. Tyranny of the the majority is just as evil as that of any fascist despot.

      • Futo Buddy

        it amazes me how few people understand that these days

  • David F

    “They care more about the gun lobby than their constituents.”

    The gun lobby, last I checked, doesn’t determine who gets elected; the voters do that (at least for senate and congressional races.) Why is it so hard for some people to get it through their heads that maybe just maybe these senators voted the way they did because their constituents told them to? That would be their job after all, to represent their constituents.

    Just a side note, a quick search of the CNN article on the Senate rejection of expanded gun background checks makes no mention of a filibuster.

    Mr. Almond points out that a recent poll shows 90% support for background checks on gun sales. (Never mind that all gun sales through dealers are already subject to a background check.)

    Should one poll of 1,013 people sway Senators from voting to represent the people of their home state? If the majority of calls and letters a Senator gets from his voters say don’t pass this amendment, then a smart Senator doesn’t pass that amendment.

    Also remember polls can be wrong.
    November 5, 2012
    Romney 49%, Obama 48% in Gallup’s Final Election Survey

    Maybe Americans in general aren’t as eager for more gun control as Mr. Almond wants them to be.

    According to USAToday polls support for gun control appears to be slipping month by month (again, it’s a small sample of 1,002 people.) However it would seem to be a reasonable and normal reaction. People have had time to think more rationally about the issue and less emotionally. Rationally gun control laws make little or no sense. Emotionally, to a few people, they may seem to be the only answer. I’ve yet to have a discussion with someone who was anti-gun who was able to reasonably and factually respond to my points. They seem to always fall back on “Guns are evil m’kay?”

    Interestingly Gallup released a poll that shows only 4% of Americans see guns as a priority. Of course it’s all in how the poll is worded. This is the key thing to keep in mind when you look at that 90% number for support of background checks.

    If you watch MSNBC and listen to WBUR you’d think it was on the minds of every American day in and day out. Much of the “coverage” of the gun-control debate by some media outlets hasn’t been journalism at all but outright anti-gun activism.

    Since we’re on the subject of gun control polls I’ll end by mentioning a favorite of mine.

    PoliceOne took a survey of its members and got over 15,000 responses. Overall it shows strong support for gun rights from the law enforcement community. One of my favorite results of the poll being:
    “The overwhelming majority (almost 90 percent) of officers believe that casualties would be decreased if armed citizens were present at the onset of an active-shooter incident.”

    How about that? Almost 90% of police officers think there would be less casualties if there were more armed citizens at active shooter events.

    Let’s work to enforce the laws we already have, we do not need to add any more limits to the rights of law abiding Americans.


    Excerpts from the PoliceOne poll:

    Police One’s Gun Policy & Law Enforcement survey was conducted between March 4 and March 13, 2013, receiving 15,595 responses from verified police professionals across all ranks and department sizes.

    1.) Virtually all respondents (95 percent) say that a federal ban on manufacture and sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds would not reduce violent crime.

    2.) The majority of respondents — 71 percent — say a federal ban on the manufacture and sale of some semi-automatics would have no effect on reducing violent crime. However, more than 20 percent say any ban would actually have a negative effect on reducing violent crime. Just over 7 percent took the opposite stance, saying they believe a ban would have a moderate to significant effect.

    3.) About 85 percent of officers say the passage of the White House’s currently proposed legislation would have a zero or negative effect on their safety, with just over 10 percent saying it would have a moderate or significantly positive effect.

    4.) Seventy percent of respondents say they have a favorable or very favorable opinion of some law enforcement leaders’ public statements that they would not enforce more restrictive gun laws in their jurisdictions. Similarly, more than 61 percent said they would refuse to enforce such laws if they themselves were Chief or Sheriff.

    5.) More than 28 percent of officers say having more permissive concealed carry policies for civilians would help most in preventing large scale shootings in public, followed by more aggressive institutionalization for mentally ill persons (about 19 percent) and more armed guards/paid security personnel (about 15 percent).

    6.) The overwhelming majority (almost 90 percent) of officers believe that casualties would be decreased if armed citizens were present at the onset of an active-shooter incident.

    7.) More than 80 percent of respondents support arming school teachers and administrators who willingly volunteer to train with firearms and carry one in the course of the job.

    8.) More than four in five respondents (81 percent) say that gun-buyback programs are ineffective in reducing gun violence.

    (Mr. Almond seems to have neglected listing his.)

    • Futo Buddy

      well said

  • sjw81

    for once agree with almond. the senate is out of touch and not looking our for us or the country. just themselves and protecting thier own cushy job. we need to vote them out or recall any who voted against this common sense bill.

    • Futo Buddy

      their job is neither to look out for you nor for the country their job is to look out for their constituents. was this bill common sense? which of the recent high profile mass shootings that inspired it would it have prevented by this law?

  • PaulD

    Is it so hard to believe that the senators actually voted based on their constituents wishes? Also, the NRA has 4 million members and they’re adding 250k per month. Can you name another civil rights organization that has that kind of membership?

  • PaulD

    It’s also worth questioning the 90% want background checks number:–centers/polling-institute/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=1877

    This survey was only conducted in 6 states all of which voted D in the last election. That doesn’t strike me as a statistically valid sample.