|Who could fail to be
moved by Gabby Giffords' passionate plea to Congress to take action? "We
are not here as victims," added her husband David
Kelly, "we are here as Americans." It wasn’t enough.
America's gun lobby is so powerful that even a hearing on curbing gun violence
contained barely a word about actually removing firearms from the public's hands.
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a noted Senate liberal, was compelled
in his opening statement to explain that he owns guns. The ranking member, Republican
Chuck Grassley of Iowa, went out of his way to assure gun owners that their rights
will not be restricted. Not a chance. The hearing was like watching a circular
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, a noted gun opponent, tip-toed through the
event, limiting his focus to background checks rather than actual gun restrictions.
Gayle Trotter, a women's rights advocate, testified that the AR-15 assault
weapon is the ideal gun for a mother to use when defending her home and children
against violent intruders. Imagine that! Lindsey Graham, Republican of South
Carolina, said he owns an AR-15 and insisted that in some cases the weapon "makes
As a result of such thinking, this nation will not soon solve – nor
meaningfully address – its rampant gun problem.
Sen. Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, got NRA chief Wayne LaPierre to concede
that one reason he favors gun ownership is for citizens to protect themselves
from their own government. James Johnson, the police chief in Baltimore County,
said LaPierre's view was "creepy." But it's part of a spreading view
among misguided Americans that government, not guns, is what places them at risk.
That's how deep the division goes.
While it’s perfectly reasonable to seek ways to keep guns out of the
hands of the mentally ill, Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota expressed legitimate
concern that proposed legislation might result in “stigmatizing” the
mentally ill. Even his GOP colleague, Utah’s Orrin Hatch, noted that the
rights of the mentally ill must be protected.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, perhaps the Senate's staunchest believer
in actual anti-gun legislation, was forced to concede, "This is such a difficult
debate because people on both sides have such fixed positions."
Indeed. And nothing – not Newtown and not seeing former Congresswoman
Giffords’ struggle just to utter a sentence as a result of her gun-induced
wounds – will change that. Half the nation believes that the solution to
gun violence is limiting guns; the other half believes the answer is to rush
out and buy more guns.
Congress hasn't been particularly successful lately in accomplishing things,
but it remains skilled at holding hearings that give the superficial impression
that change is at hand. When it comes to guns, the nation is at a standoff, and
will remain there for some time.
Wayne LaPierre, of all people, said he has testified on Capitol Hill numerous
times and “nothing changes.” He neglected to point out that he and
the NRA are largely responsible for keeping it that way.
(c) Peter Funt. This column was originally distributed by the Cagle Syndicate.