by Darryl Cherness It is almost beyond human comprehension that the United States Senate could vote down legislation to expand gun background checks in light of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings and the massive support this legislation enjoyed with the American people. Polls showed that 90% of the American people supported expanded background checks for gun purchasers, but that didn't matter to the 46 senators, including 5 Democrats who voted against this legislation(the Senate rigged the rules to require 60 votes to approve this bill). These 46 senators turned their backs on the American people, the families who lost loved ones to gun violence, and to their responsibility as senators to protect the safety of the people of this country. We will hear all kinds of excuses from the apologists for those senators to justify their votes to sell out the American people and cave in to the gun lobby. We will hear that they had to vote this way because they came from "red states," that the legislation violated people's Second Amendment rights, and that criminals would find a way to get guns regardless of this legislation. The bottom line is this: all of the arguments that have been raised by the gun lobby have absolutely no merit. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the sponsors of this legislation, along with Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, comes from a red state, as does John McCain of Arizona. That didn't stop them from supporting expanded background checks. As for the Second Amendment argument, the Second Amendment does not guarantee the "right" of convicted felons or mentally ill persons who are a danger to themselves or others, to purchase guns. Allowing dangerous people who are a threat to society to purchase guns, was never the intent of our founding fathers. Finally, the argument that this legislation should be voted down because it wouldn't stop 100% of all prohibited purchasers from obtaining guns, is completely absurd. Using this logic, there should be no laws against murder since some individuals will commit murder even though it is against the law. While no law is perfect, this law has the potential to save thousands of lives by closing a major loophole in the existing law. Right now, if you purchase a gun from a licensed gun dealer, you must undergo a background check. However, if you purchase that same gun at a gun show or online, there is no background check. 40% of all gun purchases in this country fall into these categories, allowing thousands of convicted felons and mentally ill people to obtain guns each year with no questions asked. Where do we go from here? We must channel our anger and frustration into constructive action. We must continue to fight for expanded background checks. We must do everything in our power to defeat those senators (including Democrats) who voted against this legislation. Call your friends and relatives who live out of state and urge them to campaign against those senators, who voted the wrong way, when they stand for reelection. In politics, there are no permanent defeats. We will go on, and ultimately we will succeed because we have the support of the American people.
by Darryl Cherness In light of the tragedy in Newtown Connecticut, the national debate over gun control has been reignited. Recent polls show that a clear majority of Americans (57% or 54% depending on the poll) now favor some kind of gun control. While we, as a nation, are appalled by the killing of 26 people, including 20 innocent, little children, what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School is just the “tip of the iceberg.” Consider the following statistics from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (http://blog.bradycampaign.org): • Almost 100,000 people in America are shot or killed with a gun every year. • Over 1 million people have been killed with guns since 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. • US homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high income countries combined! From those statistics, it is clear that an epidemic of gun violence exists in this country. How can we address this problem? First, persons with serious mental illnesses who are a danger to themselves or others must have readily available access to mental health treatment. Second, common sense gun control is absolutely essential. In regard to gun control, it makes no sense to say that if someone wants to purchase a firearm from a licensed gun dealer there must be a background check on that prospective purchaser, but if that same prospective purchaser wants to buy a gun at a gun show or on the internet, there should be no background check whatsoever. The “gun show loophole” must be closed! It also makes no sense to allow a civilian to purchase military style anti-personnel weapons (i.e. Uzis, AK-47’s etc.). Why does any law abiding hunter or sportsman need to own a “weapon of war?” Assault weapons should be banned. Along these same lines, large clip ammunition magazines should be banned. No civilian needs to own ammunition clips that contain 30 or more rounds of ammunition. While these measures will not end all acts of violence in this country, they could play a significant role in reducing the level of gun violence that plagues our society. Darryl Cherness is a member and past president of the Culver City Democratic Club.