If you had no knowledge of U.S. political debates and were judging the strength of interest groups off of their congressional testimony—admittedly, an odd approach—you’d think the gun lobby was weak and ineffectual. During this afternoon’s Senate hearing on gun control, gun advocates pushed a series of increasingly ridiculous rationales for opposing new gun laws.
The National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre began with the reasonable—if erroneous—assertion that background checks make no difference in keeping illegal guns off the streets, but then turned up the heat by claiming that new gun-control laws are futile because “homicidal maniacs” won’t follow them. Next, he pushed to scrap privacy laws and make the records of the mentally ill public and searchable. In other words, we should defend the Constitution by stigmatizing vulnerable people.
This was followed by a performance from Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, who argued against gun control by warning of a postapocalyptic future where homeowners might have to ward off “marauding gangs” following a natural disaster, and stirring rhetoric from Gayle Trotter of the conservative Independent Woman’s forum, who claimed that guns would make women safer: “Using a firearm with a magazine holding more than ten rounds of ammunition, a woman would have a fighting chance even against multiple attackers.”
If life were a Die Hard movie, then yes, this would be an effective way of holding off attackers. In the real world, guns are more likely to kill women than protect them.
Gun advocates are ridiculous, but—unfortunately—none of this has any effect on their political influence. Most Republican lawmakers are still unwilling to cross the NRA, and odds are good the administration will not secure support for new gun-control policies. With any luck, however, the gun lobby’s shenanigans will lead some politicians to take it a little less seriously, and in the future, lower the barriers to taking action.
So They Say
"Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children."
—Gabrielle Giffords, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence
Daily Meme: Special Election Teams
- John Kerry was confirmed as our new secretary of state yesterday. The vote was alandslide, 94-3, the only opposing votes being from Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, all Republicans.
- Today, Kerry delivered his final Senate speech: "Eight years ago I admit that I had a very different plan, slightly different anyway, to leave the Senate, but 61 million Americans voted that they wanted me to stay here with you. And so staying here I learned about humility, and I learned that sometimes the greatest lesson in life comes not from victory but from dusting yourself off after a defeat and starting over when you get knocked down."
- So Kerry is gone from the Senate, and on to greener pastures, but what about his seat? Today, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts announced that he had chosen Mo Cowen, his former chief of staff, to temporarily fill the position until the special election.
- The to-be-appointed senator is also a former ... Mitt Romney donor?
- But don't worry, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murrary says, "'He’s cool' ... George Clooney and James Bond 'have nothing on Mo Cowan.'"
- What about the Senate race? Scott Brown is "leaning strongly" toward fighting to reclaim a seat.
- And at least for right now, a Markey/Brown standoff looks like a toss-up.
- Which means we can probably look forward to many more mentions and sightings of Scott Brown's beloved truck in the next few years.
What We're Writing
- Jamelle Bouie points out that there is no right to vote stated in the Constitution and that we, you know, maybe oughtta write one in there.
- Patrick Caldwell looks at Minnesota's successful fight against voter-ID laws.
What We're Reading
- What could have been more-or-less straightforward civilian-terrorism trials have become an ad-lib theater of the absurd at Guantánamo. As long as the world isn't watching...
- Defense contractors are crying depleted-uranium tears as we edge closer to the sequester in March. If we let it go through, Eisenhower might stop jitterbugging in his grave.
- In a follow-up to budget cuts, the Pentagon is developing puppy brain scans. To find the warlike ones. For our much publicized dog army. Not The Onion.
- Mother Jones looks at America's love affair with debt, from the early days when rich guys got off and poor guys got screwed, to today when rich guys get off when poor guys get screwed.
- The Atlantic takes a crack at why the newest bad GDP report might be the best terrible GDP report we've ever had the pleasure of being sad about.
- Walter Kirn eloquently details his evolution on thinking about guns, prompted by the massacres that have spawned a rethinking of American culture in so many of us.
- BuzzFeed congratulates Congress for working together on immigration reform with, what else, GIFs.
Poll of the Day
According to Rasmussen, 32 percent of Americans think that their local member of Congress deserves re-election. Given historically high rates of turnover in the Congress, we can only assume that we'll be seeing something like 300 new representatives in 2014. Even if that falls through, with a Republican-dominated chamber, it seems like less might be more, as far as incumbents go.