The 41 Republican and four Democratic senators who voted to filibuster a bipartisan gun sale background check bill yesterday are rightfully losing friends quickly. After all, the bill they blocked was supported by over 90 percent of voters and 90 percent of gun owners. The backlash appropriately started the moment they voted to filibuster, as Patricia Maisch, a survivor of the 2011 Tucson mass shooting, yelled "Shame on you!" from the Senate balcony and told reporters "They have no soul. They have no compassion for the experiences people have lived through." They then heard from President Obama, who called it a "shameful day for Washington." Then, this morning they woke up this to a no-holds-barred op-ed from former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, another tenacious survivor of the Tucson shooting, calling for every single one of them to be ousted from their jobs.
But these 45 senators still have friends. And it's very telling who those friends are. The lobbying group Gun Owners of America immediately sent an email to its supporters praising the filibuster and taunting background check proponents, saying, "Well, guess who's laughing now?" This is the same group that has claimed that expanded background checks would lead to a genocide against Christians, a "Minority Report"-style "pre-crime unit", and even a race war.
And, of course, the National Rifle Association – the group that suggested the way to stop future school shootings was to put more guns in schools – was thrilled and "grateful" to the senators who had blocked the bill.
In his speech after the vote yesterday, President Obama said, "The American people are trying to figure out, how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen?" It can only happen if the other ten percent has many times more power than you or I. And yesterday, these out-of-touch, extremist groups were celebrating the fact that they still had that power to stop any and all measures to curb gun violence.
Part of the reason that these groups are the ones "laughing now" is that they have the combined support of a wide array of conservative lobbying groups. As a recent People For the American Way report put it, "The NRA is not alone in attempting to prevent effective regulation of guns and promoting reckless policies that leave Americans vulnerable to crime. Its efforts are supported by the same kind of coalition that undermines the nation's ability to solve a wide range of problems. Corporations, right-wing ideologues, and Religious Right leaders work together to misinform Americans, generate unfounded fears, and prevent passage of broadly supported solutions."
Although there was lots of competition for this dubious distinction, in one of the most offensive comments made by an opponent of efforts to curb gun violence, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky accused President Obama of using the families of massacred Newtown, Connecticut schoolchildren as "props." Sen. Paul and his colleagues should consider whether it is they themselves who have become the props of an extremist fringe who have completely lost their way and any sense of decency.