U.S. Senators show public opinion means nothing to them

By Dave Palmer

Another day, another filibuster. Increasingly, this seems to be the mantra that is chanted silently in the heads of Senate Republicans. Once again, a filibuster-proof vote was required in a bipartisan agreement regarding the latest gun control bill to hit the Senate floor. Once again, votes fell largely on partisan lines, with a few Republicans crossing the aisle to vote in favor, and a few Democrats up for re-election in red states voting no to curry favor among constituents.

The assault weapons vote was 40 in favor and 60 against. The magazine ban fell with 46 in favor and 54 against. Even a bipartisan amendment to impose stiff penalties on gun traffickers, which was supported by the N.R.A. and expected to be adopted by voice vote, instead was defeated, receiving 58 votes, according to a report in the New York Times.

We have definitely reached a new era in U.S. politics. An era where Senate chooses to pass on debating such a politically charged issue and decides to move straight to a filibuster-proof vote. An era where a simple majority is no longer accepted, and the supermajority requirement is used as an obstructionist tactic. An era in which public opinion is not even considered as voting on such an important issues as tougher background checks and limiting magazine capacities takes place.

The U.S. Senate is supposed to be the more deliberative body of the two houses, providing its members an unlimited amount of time to speak during the debate process. A filibuster is supposed to be limited to the actual debate surrounding a measure, and once the 60 vote threshold for cloture is reached, a simple majority in a straight up or down vote is supposed to be enough to pass the measure. However, Senate Republicans seem to believe that only a supermajority is acceptable, and therefore require 60 votes to get just about anything done.

Not only is the Senate throwing out the traditional concept of democracy which states the majority will rules, but they are also making it clear that they could care less what the people of America think, which runs completely afoul of the concept of representative democracy. Our leaders are supposed to keep their ears tuned to what they people want for fear of being voted out of office if they don’t represent what a majority of people favor.

The proof once again is in the punch. Gallup polls show that 58% of people believe that gun control laws should be more strict, and 54% of people surveyed in December of 2012 said they do not own a gun. Most stunning is that in December of 2012, 92% of people were in favor of a law that would require people, including gun dealers, to get a background check before purchasing guns at a gun show. I personally cannot remember a single issue in my lifetime or American history that had a 92% base of support.

Yet our Senate apparently believes that they can afford to defeat an issue that 92% of people support. They believe that 92% of people don’t know what they want, that the 58% of people who favor more strict gun control laws are wrong, and that the 46% of people who own guns have more rights than the 54% of America who choose not to own a gun. I for one believe that my right to walk around in public without the fear of being shot far exceeds the right of any person who is not part of a well-regulated militia or a police force to carry or even own a gun.

In this country, we regulate free speech by stating that if you engage in libel or slander, you can be sued in a court of law. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously stated, ““The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.” Translation: You could face criminal penalties for causing a panic while exercising your “freedom of speech.”

We require people to get licenses and background checks to become teachers, social workers, and members of law enforcement. We require all motor vehicle drivers to get a license that says they can operate a vehicle,  get a license for the vehicle they want to operate and require them to report all motor vehicle sales to the Secretary of State to document transfer of ownership.

However, for some reason or another, we can’t even get a reasonable discussion or debate in our national legislature regarding similar requirements for gun owners. Requiring people to get a gun operator’s license that has to be renewed every three years, as well as requiring them to purchase a license for every gun they wish to own and document its sale to the state would in no way infringe on the gun ownership rights of law-abiding citizens.

To deal with all the criminals that won’t pay attention to these laws, tough federal penalties could be created to jail any person caught with a gun that is not licensed or who is not in possession of a gun operator’s license. It’s as simple as that.

People of America, wake up! We get to decide whether members of Congress can keep their job when their term expires. We don’t have to keep re-electing silver-spoon blowhards who refuse to listen to public opinion and instead make decisions solely on what they believe. We need to stand up and tell them that we won’t stand to be ignored, and any who ignore us will be standing in the unemployment line.