The shameful politics of guns: Hypocrisy and fear grips Congress

Congress dithers and delays as momentum slips away on gun control. Photo: Neil Heslin, father of murdered Sandy Hook child, talks with Joe Biden after the news conference Thursday AP

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2013 — Three months after the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, what do we have to show for it? Not much.

We have the President’s promise to the parents and the nation that he would put the power of his office behind getting significant legislation, but no action, only the Gun Violence Task Force led by Vice President Joe Biden.

We have weeks of tears and outrage by Americans demanding gun control, but little or no action.

A gun supporter at a march on Utah’s capitol, carrying an AR-15 AP

We have seen umpteen hearings in Congress and state legislatures with testimony by the parents of the murdered children and victims of gun violence like former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, but only Colorado, home of the Aurora killings, passed serious gun control laws.

We had national poll after poll of Americans, saying they wanted a ban on assault weapons, a limit on the capacity of  gun magazines and mandatory background checks on all sales, but lawmakers have run and hid from the issue.

Why the shameful politics of gun control? Simple: hypocrisy is the name of the game in both Washington and most state legislatures and fear drives votes.

A grieving nation rallied around the cause of gun control. This was to be the moment when America would finally get sensible gun laws to stop the stampede of gun deaths. Politicians thumped the podium in their outrage at such senseless slaughter of innocents, but when it came time for them to do something, such as draft gun control bills and vote to pass them, they once again let us down.


Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) worked tirelessly to get the assault weapons ban through committee only to see Democratic Leader of the Senate Harry Reid (D-Nev.) say it will not come to the floor as a bill. Reid claimed he had no choice but to deep-six the assault weapons ban because  it fell far short of the number of votes needed to even pass and that the ban could cause all the gun control bills to go under. And thus he basically allowed Republicans and at least six Democrats to dive for cover.

Reid says it will be introduced as an amendment to the package in April, allowing the Senate to vote the amendment down, while voting for other parts of the legislative package. That way they can go home and say they were moderate and they were reasonable unlike people such as Sen. Feinstein and her wild and wooly cohorts.

Bushmaster M4 AP

Thursday the Vice President at a news conference with some of the parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary school victims, asked members of Congress who claim that the politics of gun are too difficult, “How can they say that when you take a look at those 20 beautiful babies and what happened to them?”

Ah, but they can, Mr. Vice President and they do. Even a bluer than blue state, Maryland, is having qualms about banning the Bushmaster M-4, the carbine that riddled the children of Newtown, and the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, used both by the Beltway snipers in Maryland and by the Aurora, Col. movie theater shooter.

The House of Delegates is looking for a way to give exceptions to these weapons, ones designed for the military with maximum deadliness, so Marylanders can use them. For what? To shred targets at target practice? To hold surging fire power in their hands?

What emboldened Maryland delegates to pare away at the assault weapon ban? Yes, yes, we know, the gun lobby was very effective in Maryland, but the Maryland Senate had already passed the bill despite the lobby. Could it be that the U.S. Senate made it possible when they jettisoned their ban, giving tacit permission to the states to do the same? And giving them cover at the same time?

The hypocrisy of the Congressional crocodile tears over the killings in December and the lack of real action tells Americans it is the same Congressional song, just different lyrics.


Then there is the fear factor that afflicts both Republicans and Democrats in rural or Red states, the fear of being targeted by the Tea Party or the gun lobby in the 2014 election. Just look at the Democratic senators who quake at the thought of having to vote with the leadership on an assault weapons ban:

Not certain they could vote for it:

Sens. Mark Warner (Va.), Tim Kaine (Va.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.). 

Children being led from Sandy Hook School by police personnel AP

Don’t want to vote for it: Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) wouldn’t vote for it and he faces a slim to no threat of a real challenger.

But don’t forget Sen. Harry Reid himself who is from a pro-gun state, Nevada, and if he has hopes of running again, he needs to do whatever possible to make the task of passing gun control legislation onerous. And his tactic is working.

However, it is not certain that background checks will even make it through the Senate unless the Republicans get their way that the government would also be forbidden from keeping records of gun purchases. Of the four bills wending their way to the Senate floor next month, the one with the best chance of passage is the law to make straw purchasing and gun trafficking classified as felonies with tough penalties.

Meanwhile, as the winter of Newtown grief turns into the spring of hope and renewal as the first little green shoots poke up their heads, and Americans turn their attention elsewhere, the long game plan of delay, delay, delay is working. Already Americans are no longer as passionate in their gun control fervor and the poll numbers reflect that as support for gun control begins to slip.     

An angry Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse Lewis was murdered at Sandy Hook, gets the last word, saying it the best: “Quite honestly, I’m really ashamed to see that Congress doesn’t have the guts to stand up and make a change and put out a ban on these type of weapons.

“No child deserves to be murdered or brutally slaughtered the way these children were.”

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe


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