Today the Senate rejected all nine seven proposed amendments to the gun control bill it is considering, including measures expanding the background-check requirement for gun buyers, banning "assault weapons," and limiting magazines to 10 rounds. The New York Times reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) "planned to pull the overall gun bill from the Senate floor and move on." Yet "Democratic leadership aides promised that the effort could be revived if a public groundswell demanded it." Seems unlikely.
According to the Times, "The Senate's opponents of gun control, from both parties, said that they cast their votes based on logic and that passion had no place in the making of momentous policy." Let's put it this way: Passion may have a place, but it is not a substitute for rational argument.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), co-sponsor of the background-check amendment, disagrees. Here is how he solicited support for that measure: "If you want to remember those 20 babies—beautiful children—and the six brave teachers…and you want to honor the most courageous family members I have ever met, please vote for this bill." By extension, if you dare to point out that background checks have absolutely nothing to do with the Sandy Hook massacre, you are dishonoring the memories of those innocent victims. Anyone "with a good conscience," Manchin claimed, could not possibly question whether a bill supposedly aimed at preventing mass shootings would actually do that. Could it be that Manchin's intimidation tactics not only failed but backfired?
"This was a pretty shameful day for Washington," President Obama declared after today's votes, saying senators who voted against the amendments he supported "caved to pressure." That seems a more apt description for legislators like Reid and Manchin, who for years opposed gun control measures based on what they claimed were principled grounds, only to abandon those principles because they were afraid of seeming insensitive in the face of raw emotional appeals. But as I've said before, Obama seems incapable of imagining that his opponents have any principles at all.