The Case of the Amazing, Disappearing Gun Control

Yesterday, Michael Brandon Hill walked into an Atlanta-area elementary school with 500 rounds of ammunition and an AK-47, seemingly intent on creating another national tragedy. Miraculously, no one was harmed after a school employee talked Hill down, even though shots were fired at the floor and at the police officers who responded.

Despite the fact there was no horrific incident on the scale of Newtown, the story should be a wake up call to those who have given up on gun control. The critical issue of gun violence in this country can never go away until it’s addressed in depth.

The NRA and Wayne LaPierre used their well-worn rope-a-dope technique early on, ratcheting up the rhetoric machine and feeding red meat to a riled-up core, effectively drowning out the majority voices of Americans who favor sensible gun restrictions on ownership, including measures like background checks and limits on high-capacity magazines and automatic weapons (such as those carried by Hill and Adam Lanza at Newtown).

Even New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s influence and advertising cash have failed to make a dent in the issue so far. It remains to be seen if the battle will be politically viable for congressional Democrats before the next election cycle, but they need to take a stand, regardless of the ‘optics.’

Where did the gun control votes go? It seemed like a given, post-Newtown, that some sort of bill would have reached Obama’s desk by now. Why has it taken this long to get a true up-or-down vote in the first place, especially for an issue that hits the front pages on such a regular basis?

The NRA didn’t distract the political debate on their own. They had the help of some very slick politicians, who proved adept at making a mockery of the entire debate. Let’s look back to one of the most recent turning points in gun control legislation in Senate, when California Senator Dianne Feinstein got lectured by freshman bag-of-wind Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

“Do you need a bazooka?,” Feinstein ultimately asked Cruz, cutting to the true core of the issue: the breadth of the First Amendment. If LaPierre and company are going to move the goalposts by suggesting larger and more numerous guns as a realistic solution, why not push the argument to its logical extreme?

My personal favorite moment came just after the four minute mark, when Patrick Leahy (D-VT) chimes in to Cruz:

“Could we keep on … I appreciate that we have a discussion on books; I know they have that in your state of Texas, where your educational boards tell people what books they should or shouldn’t read in their schools, something we would not do in Vermont … but, you know, we’re not going to talk about your right … But let’s stick to guns.

To which Cruz astutely responded, “I appreciate your acknowledgement that the state of Texas allows books.” A real winner right here, folks. For entertainment’s sake, let’s hope he runs for president in 2016, as all the chatter indicates; the debates will be even better than last time around, when the Republican field just about singlehandedly pushed Mitt Romney into loon territory on every issue.

At this point, the Dems seem to smell blood in the water. As C-SPAN cuts out to reveal the committee panel, you can see Chuck Schumer (D-NY) excitedly jumping in his seat while he asks Cruz whether child pornography should protected by the first amendment. Dick Durbin (D-IL) even gets in on the action as well: “Senator [Cruz] knows, having attended law school…” Nonetheless, Cruz succeeded in derailing the proceedings, and in the process gave covering fire to his party’s ‘do-nothing’ position.

The next time around for gun control legislation, Democratic leaders cannot allow the issue to be framed and mocked by extremists and lobbyists. The safety of every man, woman and child in this country quite possibly depends on it not becoming another sideshow.

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