Three months after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, the Senate Judiciary Committee has finally produced three major bills that could each make a significant difference in lowering the number and firepower of guns on the street and keeping them out of the wrong hands. But they have a deeply uncertain future as they head to the Senate floor, underscored by the utterly partisan split in the committee votes.
A bill to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines: 10 Democrats voted yes, eight Republicans voted no. A bill to require background checks on buyers in all gun sales, including from private sellers: 10 Democrats voted yes, eight Republicans voted no. A bill to stop illegal trafficking of firearms: 10 Democrats and one Republican voted yes, seven Republicans voted no.
Many Republicans claim to share the national concern over violence, but, as the hearings showed, whenever there is an opportunity to do something about it, they find a way to object.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was sneering and condescending to the sponsor of the bill, Dianne Feinstein of California. If Congress can pick and choose which guns to permit under the Second Amendment, he demanded to know, could it also choose which books are allowed under the First Amendment? In fact, the Supreme Court made it quite clear in its 2008 decision upholding a right to own a weapon that government has an absolute ability to impose limits on that right, just as the right to free expression doesn't permit the promulgation of child pornography.
But when your object is to oppose any law that would affect anyone's ability to own any firearm, common sense and legalities matter little.