The Six

So, political courage does exist in Washington.

After Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) announced that he would be joining 13 other Republican Senators in a possible filibuster to prevent gun legislation from even making it to the floor for a discussion, yesterday afternoon six Republican Senators announced that they would not support their colleagues.

Senators John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Mark Kirk (Ill), Johnny Isakson (GA), Tom Coburn (OK), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Kelly Ayotte (NH) and Susan Collins (ME) announced that they are breaking with their party on this issue.

“I am not going to join in a filibuster against bringing the bill to the floor as long as there is ample opportunity for amendments,” Senator Collins told reporters. “It’s my understanding that amendments will be allowed to the bill, which is very important since there are portions of the bill that I do not support.”

The Washington Post reported (Apr.9) that “McCain has been the most vociferous opponent of the filibuster strategy in the GOP,” calling the potential filibuster “incomprehensible.” And McCain’s Senate colleague from Arizona, Jeff Flake, said: “I have to see first what amendments are going to be allowed, but filibuster just for the sake of trying to block it from a floor vote, I’m not there.”

Whether you agree or disagree with the still-evolving gun legislation is not the immediate point. The point is that six members are taking a principled stand against a purely political tactic to stop a debate on the issue. During an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation last Sunday, McCain said, “I don’t understand it. The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand,” McCain said. “I would not only encourage it, I don’t understand it. What are we afraid of?”

The 13 GOP Senators joining McConnell in a potential filibuster are Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX), Mike Lee (UT), James Inhofe (OK), Richard Burr (NC), Mike Enzi (WY), Marco Rubio (FL), Jerry Moran (KS), Pat Roberts (KS), Ron Johnson (WI), Dan Coats (IN) and Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho.

Paul, in an effort to explain why he intends to filibuster recently, said: “We won’t let them bring it forward because our fear is that once it comes forward, they’ll come forward with something that sounds benign in the beginning but we already have the Feinstein Amendment that talks about banning certain types of guns. That is inconsistent with the Second Amendment.”

Inconsistent?

Senator Paul needs to check his facts.

In the District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court held: “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

In a New York Times article (Dec. 18, 2012) discussing the Heller decision, Adam Liptak writes that “Despite the sweeping language of [the Court’s] decision that struck down parts of the District of Columbia’s strict gun-control law, the decision appears perfectly consistent with many of the policy options being discussed after the shootings in Newtown, Conn.

“The courts have upheld federal laws banning gun ownership by people convicted of felonies and some misdemeanors, by illegal immigrants and by drug addicts. They have upheld laws making it illegal to carry guns near schools or in post offices. They have upheld laws concerning unregistered weapons. And they have upheld laws banning machine guns and sawed-off shotguns.

“Nor does Heller impose any major hurdles to many of the most common legislative proposals in the wake of the Newtown shootings, said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America. Among the responses that Heller allows, he said, are better background checks, enhanced mental health reporting and a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips.”

Short Version: No one. (let me repeat that, just to be clear)…NO ONE is attempting to take away gun owners rights under the Second Amendment. What common sense responsibility advocates, and, by the way, what recent polling on nationwide gun control want, is this:

1. A law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers. If we all have to register to drive a vehicle, we all should submit to a universal check.

2. A ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines.

3. A ban on the sale of assault weapons. Do hunters and home protectors really need an assault rifle to protect themselves and their homes when they already have a wide variety of handguns, shotguns and rifles available?

4. A ban on semiautomatic weapons with detachable magazines that rapidly fire a high number of rounds.

Will passing these laws prevent all violent crimes using weapons? Of course not – just as all traffic laws do not preventall accidents or violators. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldnot be able change or modify traffic laws based on changing circumstances when necessary.

So, why do the NRA, and gun advocates intractably cling to “their rights” versus a call by 90 percent of Americans for responsible, common sense legislation?

“Common sense,” French writer Voltaire once said, “is not so common.”

UPDATE: This morning, The Washington Post (Apr. 10) reported that “A bipartisan group of senators has struck a deal to expand gun background checks to all commercial sales — whether at gun shows, via the Internet or in any circumstance involving paid advertising, according to Senate aides familiar with the talks.

“The law would not cover private transactions between individuals, unless there was advertising or an online service involved.”

While both parties will be allowed to introduce amendments to the proposed bill, key elements, such as a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have, as of this writing, not been included or are likely to survive debate.

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