Someday, today's gun laws will be absurd

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America won't always be the insane country it currently is when it comes to implementing common sense gun laws.

One day, we'll look back on the decades of paranoia ginned up by the gun lobby with the same bafflement we reserve for the Salem witch trials or the proposition -- once upheld by the Constitution's most ardent worshippers -- that one citizen could legally own another, even in a democracy.

Just as it seems incredible that medieval lords could once pronounce their right to sleep with the brides of peasant farmers on their wedding night, one day we'll laugh at the exaggerated strength of the gun lobby. We'll look back in amazement at the grip the National Rifle Association exercised over the most craven gaggle of politicians in our nation's history.

This week, 41 Senate Republicans and four Democrats voted to protect the interests of the multibillion dollar gun industry, despite the fact that 90 percent of Americans favor what amounts to modest legislation to expand background checks to cover sales at gun shows and the Internet.

Since a 60-vote majority is required to get any legislation through the Senate these days, the compromise bill crafted by Sens. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., fell far short of what President Barack Obama campaigned for following the massacre of 20 school children and six caretakers at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December.

Still, even a watered-down bill that explicitly outlawed a national registry failed to convince terrified Democrats from red states to stick with their party and vote for the long-term interests of the American people. The handful of Republicans who voted with the Democratic majority exhibited the kind of political courage that four dissident Democrats couldn't muster.

By citing fears of everything from imaginary tax hikes to eventual gun confiscation, the opponents demonstrated a shocking propensity for lying about an issue most Americans care about. It wasn't just intellectual bad faith -- Wednesday's vote was a declaration of the GOP's intent to transform itself into a much-derided and increasingly irrelevant regional party within the next two political cycles.

The cowards who currently occupy seats in the U.S. Senate know they've earned the contempt of the American people because of their mindless fealty to the gun lobby. They know there will be a reckoning for their vote, eventually, and that not even the NRA will be able to save them.

Surrounded by former congresswoman and gunshot survivor Gabrielle Giffords and the parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook, Mr. Obama came as close as he ever has to venting his disgust with one of the world's oldest deliberative bodies.

"How can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen?" Mr. Obama asked, narrowing his gaze and allowing an edge to creep into his voice. We've frequently seen the president moved to anger and even tears when it comes to guns. There's no other issue for which this notoriously reserved man is willing to consistently put his emotions on public display.

On the same day that the Senate snuffed out any realistic hope of expanding background checks to gun shows and the Internet, an extensive piece in The New York Times delved into the murky world of websites where shady characters go to buy guns. The article walked the reader through how easy it was for felons to shop online for weapons that gun shops are prohibited from selling them.

The article highlighted several felons who used to circumvent the law: "Armslist was the brainchild of Jonathan Gibbon and Brian Mancini, friends who attended the United States Air Force Academy and then transferred to the University of Pittsburgh," the article said, comparing it to sites like Craigslist.

Mr. Gibbon, the site's sole owner, has stated he wanted to "create a place for law-abiding gun owners to buy and sell online without all of the hassles of auctions and shipping." Mr. Gibbon described Armslist as a "gun show that never ends." Pittsburghers will be proud to learn that, although it is registered in Oklahoma, Armslist uses an office in Pittsburgh as its business address, according to the Times.

One day, we're going to look back on a system that tolerates the exchange of weapons of death for blood money with wonder and amazement. What were we thinking when we pretended that words written in the 18th century about the right to bear arms placed gun commerce above the health and safety of our citizens?


Tony Norman: or 412-263-1631. Twitter: @TonyNormanPG.


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