MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Harry Reid: Let the Minority Rule
As Michael Collins writes about the failed legislative proposal to broaden background checks on gun buyers, you can put the blame at the feet of Harry Reid and other Dems who refused to break the back of frivolous filibusters at the beginning of this congressional session:
As majority leader, Reid set the rules of the Senate prior to this term, as he did prior to the last term. He deliberately allowed the super majority requirement prior to any meaningful vote to stand and, as a result, preserved the threat of a filibuster. Harry Reid bears the responsibility for the lack of a vote and passage of this legislation. The 46 senators who voted with Reid against allowing a vote are almost all Republicans. They were joined by the normal cast of atavistic Democrats including Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana who also chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
(Reid's office indicated that he voted no for procedural reasons that would allow him to bring the legislation up again later, but as long as the filibuster threat exists on any law the GOP wants to sink it will not matter.) As Collins adds, "Two other parts of the gun control passage fell after the background check fiasco. Bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazines are finished."
Although the reporting on the amendment was confusing due to the threat of a filibuster issue, the gun state Idaho Statesman got it right:
Gun control advocates suffered a huge setback Wednesday as the Senate defeated a delicately crafted compromise strengthening background checks for gun buyers.
The 54-46 vote was six short of the 60 needed. While the vote can be reconsidered, the tally was a bitter reminder that even the most gentle of gun control measures faces a nearly impossible path winning congressional approval.
So because the Democrats were too wimpy to require a simple majority vote on most legislation, 60 is once again the new 50. Given that small Republican states have equal senate representation to big Democratic states, this makes passage of many bills that the majority of the US population supports often impossible to achieve. It's minority rule, and the Dems keep backing down on changing the filibuster rules.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democratic NRA member from the pro-gun state of West Virginia, even tried to attract supporters to the bill by declaring that the universal background check wasn't completely universal: "There is not a universal background check. There is nothing in this bill that basically says that youâ€™re living in a neighborhood, and you want to sell your neighbor your gun, you can do it. No background checks are required."
Indeed there were several exemptions to the background check requirement, and it still failed due to filibuster intimidation.
That's a bit scary when you read a lengthy article in the April 17 New York Times (NYT) that describes how individuals can buy guns on the Internet without background checks, because they are considered "personal" and not "commercial" transactions.
The NYT points out that under the just defeated background check, this loophole would actually have been closed. But as for now, it continues to be an unregulated market for what are likely many illegal sales. The NYT begins the investigative piece by focusing on a felon who tried to buy and sell guns on a firearms exchange website Armlist.com:
The mere fact that Mr. Roman-Martinez was seeking to buy and sell guns on Armslist underscores why extending background checks to the growing world of online sales has become a centerpiece of new gun legislation being taken up in the Senate this week. With no requirements for background checks on most private transactions, a Times examination found, Armslist and similar sites function as unregulated bazaars, where the essential anonymity of the Internet allows unlicensed sellers to advertise scores of weapons and people legally barred from gun ownership to buy them.
The bipartisan Senate compromise under consideration would require that background checks be conducted through federally licensed dealers on all Internet and gun show sales. Gun control advocates argue that such checks might have prevented shootings like that of Zina Haughton, 42, who was killed in October with two other women by her husband, Radcliffe, even though a restraining order barred him from having guns. Mr. Haughton simply contacted a private seller on Armslist and handed over $500 in a McDonaldâ€™s parking lot for a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol and three magazines.
Given that the somewhat universal background check for gun buyers proposed law did not pass, due to a filibuster threat, Armslist.com is open for business today.
When around 10,000 people are murdered a year with guns, you would think that appropriate policy would apply to decrease that death toll.
But apparently not, although a majority of the nation and a majority of senators were in favor of the criminal and mental illness screening expansion of background checks.
To paraphrase Bill Maher: New rules, the minority wins in the Senate.
The result is as Michael Collins sardonically writes:
So what do we have at the end of Wednesday, April 17, 2013. If you are a violent criminal with a record or seriously mentally ill, you have the right to buy invasion-of-Iraq grade assault weapons with high capacity magazines for ammunition. As a bonus, you can buy these weapons of messy destruction at a gun show near you without the inconveniene of a background check. This must be what Greg Palast meant by the title of his book, Armed Madhouse.
Armed madhouse indeed.