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Drama in the Rose Garden: Defying Senate, Obama Vows to Win on Gun Control

Friday, April 19, 2013

On Wednesday, the Senate rejected a gun control agenda that President Obama has adopted as his own over the last few months, but to which other gun control supporters have bitterly clung for years: banning an ever-lengthening list of semi-automatic firearms, banning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, and expanding background check requirements to require government permission for many transfers of firearms among private citizens.

Within minutes of the Senate’s votes, which one political commentator called the “biggest loss” of Obama’s presidency, the President theatrically stood beside a prominent crime victim and several family members of other victims in the Rose Garden, beginning his comments in a somber tone, so that the anger to which he would dramatically build over the next 13 minutes would, in contrast, appear more sincere.

Obama should not have been surprised by what happened on Capitol Hill, however. A CBS poll in March showed that support for gun control had dropped 10 points since December and a Gallup poll in April showed that only four percent of Americans believed that “guns/gun control” is the biggest problem facing the country.

However, as Obama’s Rose Garden performance wore on, it became less a monologue delivered for the benefit of the supporters with whom he stood, and became more an ideological soliloquy for his own indulgence.

Still, Obama is a politician, well-versed in how to mislead through distortion and omission. Thus, early on, he claimed that 90 percent of Americans agree that there should be background checks on firearm transactions and that “most Americans think that’s already the law,” without mentioning that 100 percent of firearm transactions between firearm dealers and non-dealers are subject to background check requirements already, and that only a small percentage of non-dealer transactions are between strangers.

Obama--whom the Washington Post gave Three Pinocchios for lying about the background check issue--also claimed that “the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the [background checks] bill” by saying it would implement gun registration. What the NRA had said is that a report from the National Institute of Justice concluded that requiring background checks on otherwise private firearms transfers would be “ineffective” without requiring gun registration. That was not a “lie.” It was, and is, a fact.

The bill Obama wanted to see pass was S. 649, by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the “universal background checks” provisions of which came from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Because Schumer’s legislation was too severe to have any chance of passage, Senators Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), along with Schumer, proposed a compromise amendment in the hope of winning additional votes. However, the amendment was riddled with pitfalls for gun owners, and even some potentially pro-gun provisions added to sweeten the pot were flawed. The amendment fell four votes short of the 60 that were required for passage under a rule the Senate adopted to avoid a filibuster. (Click here to see how your senators voted.)

That enraged Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who, when she rose to introduce her amendment to ban “assault weapons” and “large” magazines, accused the Senate of cowardice. Refusing to stop speaking after her allotted two minutes had expired, Feinstein ranted about the Senate’s 60-vote rule, knowing she would not get 60 votes but apparently believing that she would get at least 51, which under other circumstances would have enabled her to claim victory. One can only wonder what she must have thought when her gun and magazine ban was rejected 40-60. Perhaps she held hope that Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s amendment to ban only the magazines would fare differently, but it too went down to defeat, 46-54.

An NRA-supported amendment by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), to reduce law enforcement grant funding to states that publish the names of firearm permit holders, was approved.

Unfortunately, three NRA-supported amendments fell shy of the 60 votes necessary for passage.

First among those was a comprehensive alternative proposal by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and others, to provide incentives to the states to more fully report criminal and mental health records on persons prohibited from possessing firearms, while ensuring that people with mental health records who do not pose a threat to public safety could petition to have their rights restored. It would also have increased the prosecution of felons who illegally attempt to buy guns, and would have created a clear prohibition against illegal straw purchasing and trafficking of firearms. Finally, it would have provided grants for school security improvements and the creation of school safety guidelines. The vote, was 52-48, eight short of what was needed for passage.

A Right-to-Carry reciprocity amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), which fell three votes short (57-43), would have allowed those who can carry concealed firearms in their home states to do so in any other state that issues concealed firearm permits. An amendment by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), which fell four votes short (56-44), would have prevented the government from denying gun possession by veterans based on mental health concerns without a judicial finding of dangerousness.

Obama, near the conclusion of his remarks in the Rose Garden, said the defeat of gun control in the Senate was only “Round One,” and vowed that “This effort is not over.”

Indeed, it’s not over. We can promise the president that our effort to protect and fully vindicate the rights of good Americans to keep and bear arms for self-defense and other legitimate purposes will continue as long as those rights are attacked. Gun owners and other Americans who support their rights have come together like never before, letting their elected representatives know that they stand in support of the Second Amendment, and against taking away people’s rights under the false rationale that all Americans should lose some rights because of the misdeeds of madmen and criminals. We will not  abandon that noble cause.

Senate Majority Leader Reid has pulled S. 649 from the floor for the time being, but will almost assuredly bring it back in the future. And today, there are reports that Obama will soon announce further unilateral gun control actions by the executive branch. For now, please contact your senators, confidently expressing your support for their pro-Second Amendment votes, and respectfully expressing your dissatisfaction with their anti-gun votes. In other words, prepare for round two.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.