By Andrea Dew Steele
President and Founder, Emerge America
Americans woke up today to some good news in the fight to enact common-sense gun reforms. After Democrats seized control of the Senate floor yesterday and held a nearly 15-hour filibuster demanding action on two pieces of pending legislation, a compromise was reached early this morning. Senate Republicans have finally agreed to hold votes on two measures that would ban people on the government’s terrorist watch list from obtaining gun licenses and expand background checks to gun shows and internet sales.
Great news for sure! But haven’t we been here before?
Just a few years ago, in the wake of another gun violence tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, the Senate found themselves poised to vote on a gun reform proposal. The bill, introduced by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, required background checks on most private firearm sales. The proposal was bi-partisan. The vast majority of Americans supported enacting it. And the Senate passed it overwhelmingly.
I know. That’s not what happened.
Despite overwhelming public support for enacting universal background checks and the bi-partisan nature of the bill, the Senate still voted down the legislation 54 – 46. In fact, only four Republican Senators crossed the aisle and voted in favor of it. To be fair – five Democratic Senators also voted against it. It was clear to everyone watching that the rigid opposition and deep pockets of the NRA trumped the will of the electorate.
Is anything going to be enough for these Republican Senators? If 20 first graders and six educators shot down at Sandy Hook Elementary; or nine worshippers in a North Charleston church shot to death because of the color of their skin; 12 moviegoers in Aurora enjoying the newest Batman film; or 14 coworkers in San Bernardino at an office holiday party wasn’t enough— will 49 people in Orlando out for a fun weekend night of dancing and socializing at an LGBT club make the difference for these legislators? Clearly, part of the reason this is moving faster is because of organizations like Moms Demand Action. They have energized millions of people to reach out to their lawmakers and have created the grassroots pressure to make these politicians take action.
If Senate Republicans refuse once again to pass commonsense gun reform, there’s only one solution. They’ve got to go. When over 90 percent of Americans support background checks (including 87 percent of Republicans), but Republicans in the Senate can only muster four votes, something is seriously broken. These new pieces of gun reform legislation will fail for the same reasons the last measure did. The wrong people are in office.
Luckily, we can do something about it. We can show Republicans that we reject their obstructionism and unwillingness to work across the aisle by voting them out and voting in Democrats that get it.
It starts this November when we all head to ballot box. Remember Sandy Hook when you vote for local school board and city council members. Think of the victims of the Orlando shooting when you vote for your county council and state legislators. Electing these people locally is part of an important, long-term plan that will help us eventually get to where we need to be nationally with gun reforms. We may not get Republican lawmakers to see the light on this issue, but we can certainly show them the door.