No safe zone for lawmakers in gun debate

April 14, 2013 

If the debate over guns and how to control them has any purpose, it shows how our lawmakers can be influenced by public opinion and lobbying. There is intense pressure being applied by both sides of the gun debate.

The National Rifle Association is issuing almost daily edicts to its members about this or that lawmaker that’s not being true to the cause, and the NRA is not the only group lobbying for the status quo. Gun Owners of America is gaining influence on Capitol Hill as well. While the money flows, lawmakers’ fingers are in the wind trying to judge where the people who elected them stand on the issues.

On the other side, there are scores of people marching up and down the aisles of the Capitol armed, not with money and influence, but with pain. They have been telling lawmakers compelling stories of their loved ones taken by people armed with weapons that can and did kill.

At the beginning of last week, it was a pretty good bet that nothing would be done by lawmakers. Republicans threatened a filibuster, but the ranks folded as a number of Republican senators, including Georgia Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, said they wouldn’t join the filibuster effort.

That is a good thing, not because of a want for passage of the measure proposed by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and Pat Toomey, R-Penn., that will call for extended background checks for gun shows and online purchases but not require a national registry, but because the issue deserves public debate. Lawmakers shouldn’t cower behind a filibuster to avoid, not passage, but simple discussion of one of the consequential issues of our time.

Lawmakers, as they wont to do, are more concerned with the next election than moving any process forward that might threaten their positions. That’s natural. After all, they are supposed to represent their district’s views, not their own. But, they are finding out there is no place to hide, no safe haven, in this gun debate.

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