GUN CONTROL – A SPARK OF HOPE

After the decisive defeat of four bills to provide better gun-control surveillance, it appeared that any legislation would continue to be hopeless in Congress. That inspired a group of Democrats in the House of Representatives to take up the cause and stage a sit-in protest. They defied the strict House rules forcing Paul Ryan to step down from the speaker’s chair after pounding his gavel nearly to a pulp.

With the closure of the session, the television cameras were turned off denying the protesters the public exposure they needed to rally support. The debate on gun-control legislation was kept off the floor of the Senate and the House by the powerful gun lobbies. The mass killing at Orlando, Florida followed by the Senate defeat of gun control reform created a backlash of lawmakers not beholden to the National Rifle Association. They represent a large number of Americans fed up with these tragic killings.

As much as I respect Paul Ryan as one of the few Republican leaders that displays any effort at bipartisanship and the will of the people, I thought his response to the sit-in was inappropriate. He called it a publicity stunt which is an affront to the hundreds of families that were victims of the mass killings over the last few years. I suppose his anger was actually directed to those protesters who defied House procedure rules by forcing the session to adjourn despite his efforts to restore order.

Rather than blame the elected officials disrupting a session of Congress, they should be commended for their expression of frustration over a chance to debate gun control. These collective individuals did make their point bringing to the public’s attention that the gun lobbies control any government restrictions.

Fortunately, the rebellion did generate considerable social media coverage when the sit-in lawmakers began to record their speeches over Twitter’s live-feed Periscope service that was picked up by C-SPAN and broadcast. Possessing cameras and other electronic devices on the House floor is strictly forbidden. It was a brazen disruption that underscored the outrage many lawmakers have expressed about the failure of Congress to act on gun control.

In contrast the NRA and related gun owner and manufacturer groups have an open door on Capitol Hill to officials to prevent any restrictions on gun sales. The generous campaign contributions to elected officials are more influential than listening to the public that they represent.

After the insurrection on the House floor, the Senate managed to squeeze by a compromise bill for debate that would tighten background checks for gun purchases. It still lacked the necessary 60 votes to be passed by the Senate when it will be considered after the July 4th holiday break.

The British news magazine The Economist notes that the impasse on gun-control will not last forever with 90 percent of Americans in favor of universal background checks. The ritual after the latest mass murders starts with grief, then outrage and then failed gun-control bills in Congress.

On the eve of the holiday break, the California Senate passed a package of sweeping gun-control bills, including a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons with overwhelming support from the Democratic Party. Governor Jerry Brown promptly signed the bills.

Despite years of failure to tighten background checks for sales of guns and ammunition, it looks like the tide has turned against the powerful gun-control lobby. At least members of Congress are beginning to discuss the issue and even agree to debate modified versions when they return after the holiday.

Perhaps it is a spark that will light a fire.

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