The images coming from Newtown last fall were nothing less than a nightmare come true. Every American was saddened and disturbed by the actions of a seriously disturbed young man who shot his way into a school and committed mass murder.
Immediately afterward, President Obama announced that Vice President Biden would lead a "comprehensive" review of the causes of this kind of senseless violence. Most Americans supported a complete conversation to determine the root causes.
Unfortunately, what could have been a meaningful conversation possibly leading to effective measures designed to better protect Americans was quickly hijacked by the anti-gun lobby. Instead of a comprehensive approach, they singularly focused on gun control and resurrected a call for the previously tried and failed banning of scary looking pistols, rifles, shotguns, and various forms of ammunition.
Democrats in the Senate eventually realized that gun-grabbing legislation was not going to pass, so they introduced a bill that would do little, or nothing, to reduce the violence - but would infringe the rights, increase the costs, and significantly inconvenience law-abiding citizens. Background checks are already required in most commercial gun sales. The bill from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would have extended them in a number of intrusive ways.
For example, the bill would have made it a crime for you to give a gun to your nephew as a gift, or lend a rifle to your cousin for deer season, without first paying for a background check. It also would have required a federal record of every firearm sale - recording who was the buyer and what was purchased.
These are infringements on the rights of law-abiding gun owners — rights so crucial to our freedom that the Founding Fathers put them in the Second Amendment to the Constitution. The Manchin-Toomey amendment was also fatally flawed.
More importantly – and after all the speeches and politicking by the anti-gun lobby - nothing in Senator Schumer’s bill, or the Manchin-Toomey alternative, would have prevented the tragedy in Newtown, nor prevent similar tragedies in the future.
I voted no on the Senate’s Motion to Proceed to this misguided federal intrusion into our lives. It is consistent with promises I made during my campaign to oppose legislation that steps on the people’s freedom, and consistent with my voting record on other legislation that would diminish our liberty as Americans.
A better solution came from Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. His bill would have improved our existing and problem-plagued background check system. It would have strengthened federal prosecution of criminals who lie to evade existing background checks. It was a good bill, and I cosponsored it. 52 Senators voted for it – 9 Democrats and 43 Republicans. But it fell short of the 60 vote supermajority needed to amend the poorly written Schumer bill.
If the proponents of the Schumer bill were serious about reducing gun violence, they would have supported the Grassley bill once it was apparent their own plan would fail. They did not. This leads one to believe they cared more about scoring political points than finding a real solution.
I care deeply about preventing crime. But I also care about freedom. I wish there was a magic wand that could prevent these senseless tragedies. But there isn’t – and there certainly isn’t one in Washington.
What we need is better enforcement of the laws we already have. Approximately 73,000 people failed our existing background checks in 2010 - and 48,000 of those individuals were felons or fugitives. Out of all those failed background checks, only 62 cases were sent to prosecutors - with only 44 actual prosecutions.
Americans wanted something meaningful accomplished last week without having their freedom threatened or violated. The anti-gun lobby had a different agenda and made that goal impossible. What a shame.