Editorial: Choosing to do nothing

Apr. 19, 2013 @ 01:54 PM

Our U.S. senators had a chance Wednesday to do the least they could.

Instead, they did even less.

Maybe it was craven political pragmatism. Perhaps it was irrational fear of the power of the National Rifle Association. Or maybe it was the much more rational fear of losing contributions from the NRA next year.

Regardless of the reason, Senate Republicans – including North Carolina’s Richard Burr - banded with several rural-state Democrats to vote down gun-control legislation proposed by Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania that would have provided tighter background checks for buyers and banned assault weapons.

The Senate also did away with a proposed ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Burr’s vote came as no surprise. On Wednesday, The Herald-Sun’s Gregory Childress reported that Triangle mayors – including Bill Bell from Durham and Mark Kleinschmidt from Chapel Hill – tried once more to lobby Burr and Democrat Kay Hagan to the cause of improved background checks. Burr made his position clear.

“After reviewing the current text of the Manchin-Toomey proposal, I have numerous Second Amendment due process and privacy concerns that make the legislation too problematic for it to ever become law,” Burr said.

Hagan supported expanded background checks and voted in favor of the doomed legislation, but stopped short of wanting a ban on assault weapons or high-capacity ammo magazines.

“I am concerned that amendments banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines could infringe on the rights of lawful gun owners, and I will not support such measures,” she said.

President Barack Obama called the outcome “shameful.” And, no matter what patriotic face opponents try to put on their vote, the president is correct.

Senators could have done something. It wouldn’t be much. It wouldn’t prevent aberrations like Newtown. Nothing could. We know that.

But it might have helped prevent some more common crimes, such as domestic violence, without infringing on Second Amendment rights.

They had a chance to do the least they could.

Instead, they did even less.

We think Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona representative who survived a mass shooting in Tucson, put it best in her op-ed piece in The New York Times after Wednesday’s vote:

“They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby – and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.”

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