Our View: Urgency for Ohio gun laws proved short-lived; Filibuster doomed action on reasonable regulatory measure

Published:

If President Barack Obama's expanded system of background checks for gun buyers had come to a Senate vote anytime before the filibuster became a routine legislative delaying tactic, it would have passed by a close but still comfortable margin of 54-46 and become the law of the land.

Federally licensed gun dealers carry out background checks now, but the proposed measure, worked out in bipartisan cooperation by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., would have extended the checks to gun shows and online sales to screen out those with criminal records or histories of mental health problems. But that and every other piece of gun legislation failed April 17.

Unfortunately, in the last decade or so, the filibuster has become almost automatic, meaning it takes 60 votes to bring a piece of legislation to vote. When that happens, all that is required for passage is a simple majority, as the Founding Fathers intended.

The 60-vote hurdle did prevent a really bad piece of legislation from passing. Brought up the same day, it would have required that states recognize other states' concealed-carry laws, no matter how lax the requirements for a permit. The concealed-carry legislation failed 57-43 -- and still fared better than the bill for expanded background check, which supported by 90 percent of the American people, according to polls.

The background-check bill is technically not dead. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada could bring it up at any time, but it would be a futile gesture -- unless there's another school massacre like Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were gunned down by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who also killed his mother and himself. Or another Virginia Tech, site of the nation's deadliest shooting in 2007, when 32 people, mostly students, were murdered.

After each such shooting, there is a huge public outcry to tighten the laws governing guns and the people who have access to them.

What we have learned from Newtown and Virginia Tech is that there is a window of barely two months for Congress to act, when public support for legislative action is at its height and the lawmakers are more frightened of angry voters than of the gun lobby.

The kind of mass shooting that would impel Congress to move that fast -- faster than Newtown or Virginia Tech -- is frightening to contemplate. So between shootings, we don't think about it.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.

  • Obama quote: 'Shame on us' if Newtown doesn't bring new gun laws Well perhaps new laws are in order, but maybe not new gun laws. Let’s examine some commonalities in the last three events that the main stream media tends to ignore. 1. Just two weeks before the Newtown shooting, Adam Lanza’s mother, Nancy, discovered pictures in her son’s room featuring dead bodies, but she did not confront him. “One (drawing) had a woman clutching a religious item, like rosary beads, and holding a child, and she was getting all shot up in the back with blood flying everywhere,” LaFontaine said. “Nancy was disturbed, really disturbed, but didn’t confront him … She wanted to think it over.” She also allowed him access to a locked gun safe. 2. A psychiatrist who treated James Holmes told campus police a month before the Colorado theater attack that Holmes had homicidal thoughts and was a danger to the public, according to documents released. Dr. Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado, Denver, told police in June that the shooting suspect also threatened and intimidated her. It was more than a month before the July 20 attack at a movie theater that killed 12 and injured 70. 3. As Jared Loughner moved closer to the day he would shoot then-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, his behavior became so disturbed and erratic that his father would disable his car at night to keep him home. According to Loughner's father, Randy, his son's behavior began to change dramatically after he was kicked out of Pima Community College in fall 2010 despite recommendations from Pima Community College officials that their son undergo a mental evaluation, his parents apparently didn't follow up on it. A picture of mental illness and people noticing strange, erratic, disturbed behavior is coming together. The issue is; after this type of behavior was seen and/or reported, nothing further was done. Perhaps instead of new gun laws, new mental health laws are in order. I’m of the mindset that the best way to stop a madman with a gun is with a good man with a gun. By the way, the Newtown school district has decided to post two armed guards at every elementary school… they already were present at the high school. CNBC - Newtown Board of Education voted to request the presence of two kinds of guards inside the town's elementary schools. The guards, officially called school resource officers (SROs), were already a fixture at all Newtown schools, but until this vote they were budgeted only to be a presence at middle and high Schools ……a coincidence that the Newtown shooter didn’t target the middle schools or high schools? I think not.