Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a former practicing ophthalmologist, is blinded by reality. When he postulated about the Newtown families lobbying Congress for sensible gun control last month, he epitomized the disgusting reaction of hardline extremists who lack compassion and simple human decency. “In some cases, I think the president has used them as props,” he said. A licensed doctor shamefully mischaracterizing suffering people’s pain, it was an exclamation point that defines callousness.
Of course, these grieving citizens were not props. They’re ordinary people who, visiting Washington, employed the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of the right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. That’s something that hardliners who love to profess faith in this document ought to take to heart.
Paul is one of many national figures who have been promoting the interests of the National Rifle Association rather than seriously addressing our scourge of recurring national slaughter. He led an unsuccessful attempt to keep the Senate from debating last month’s background checks legislation whose passage that body eventually blocked. Joined by colleagues Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, Paul said the mild Senate bill was an “abuse of the process (of) how the rights of Americans are systematically eroded and we will continue to do everything in our power to prevent it.” What American rights? To mow down 26 American school children and employees? Or people just going out to the movies? Or people meeting their congresswoman at a mall?
Many news organizations inaccurately reported that the Senate voted down the compromise background checks bill. Actually, it was supported by a 55-45 margin, but that victory was blocked by the institution’s failure to garner the 60 votes required to proceed to a vote on the bill’s substance. So the concept of majority rule was mocked — again! The nays had it. Majority leader Harry Reid deserves much of the blame for not curtailing this ridiculous filibuster folly. By voting against cloture, a motion to limit debate and proceed to an up-or-down vote on the bill itself, 90 percent of Republican and four Democratic senators shamefully flouted the will of 90 percent of Americans. It was a striking exhibition of senatorial abdication that left seriousness of purpose on the cutting room floor and confirmed our Congress settling in the laps of NRA leaders.
That so few people can control and manipulate a nation is a totalitarian concept. It doesn’t belong here. I marvel at the duplicity of extremists who call themselves pro-lifers but would rather protect the NRA than defend our Declaration of Independence’s acknowledged endowed unalienable right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Even Republican pollster Frank Luntz has criticized that organization’s intransigence. “I don’t think the NRA is listening,” he said. “I don’t think that they understand. Most Americans would protect the Second Amendment rights and yet agree … that not every human being should own a gun, not every gun should be available at anytime, anywhere, for anyone.”
For too long, opponents of sensible gun control have gotten away with the claim that civilians’ possession and use of military-style firearms is protected by the Second Amendment. They’re wrong. That specious argument was again offered by Paul, Cruz and Lee when they filibustered consideration of the background checks bill. Yet there’s a world of difference between the amendment’s “right of the people to keep and bear arms” and a society awash in assault weapons and multiple-round ammunition clips.
The infamous Senate vote blocking compromise gun control legislation was a failure of epic proportions for our system of doing things, a woeful embarrassment for America in the face of these perverse examples of American exceptionalism. Consider this: according to Politifact, the odds of being murdered with a firearm are much greater in the United States than in Switzerland, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Israel, Australia, Japan, England and Wales. Since 1968, more Americans have perished in gun-related incidents than in all the wars in American history. Since 1980 there have been 900,000 gun deaths in this country. The constant Second Amendment reference is a gigantic red herring — blood red.
Serving the NRA’s interest has clearly become a mortal threat to Americans’ security. It offends the covenant that our Founding Fathers enshrined at our Declaration of Independence’s signature, a bond of newly independent citizens to care for one another as a nation, and it’s worth revisiting: “We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
— Michael Zucker is a resident of South Lake Tahoe and a stockbroker with Regal Securities. The views expressed in this column are his alone and do not represent those of Regal.