Aug. 22, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

The He Said, She Said of Gun Control: Get Over It | Rothenberg

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
The failure of the Senate compromise of Manchin, left, and Toomey doomed the entire gun control bill, Rothenberg writes.

The deep disappointment coming from the White House, gun control advocates and the parents of Newtown, Conn., at the demise of the Manchin-Toomey Senate compromise gun bill is understandable. But some of the rhetoric following the amendment’s defeat has been over the top.

Supporters of stricter gun control have called those who voted against the measure “cowards,” a strange label for senators who voted contrary to what 85 percent of the country, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and virtually all in the media wanted. Is it courageous to follow national public opinion and most of TV’s talking heads or to vote against them?

Opponents of additional gun restrictions haven’t engaged in as much name-calling, but they act as if the government is about to confiscate their weapons and destroy the Second Amendment. We’d be better off with less emotion on both sides.

Do supporters of Manchin-Toomey have reason to complain that opponents mischaracterized the proposal to create fear and gin up opposition? Absolutely. But that happens in almost every intense legislative fight. Deal with it.

Do opponents of Manchin-Toomey have reason to be frustrated at the purely emotional appeals of the amendment’s supporters? Yes, I believe so. But that’s politics. Get over it.

Supporters of the Manchin-Toomey bill (and other gun control proposals) complain that politics was involved, that members cared more about their political survival than “doing right.”

Well, politics is always involved, and if many senators made their decisions on the basis of how it would affect their electoral futures, I don’t have a problem with that. Isn’t that how things are supposed to work?

Of course, whether those senators made the right call for their political futures is another separate question.

Most of the complaining is coming from supporters of increased restrictions who argue that senators who voted against a measure that had widespread support weren’t responding to public opinion, but rather to the National Rifle Association.

Sorry, but considerations about the NRA are directly related to public opinion, as potential primary challenges are a part of politics and because members are more politically sensitive to opinion in their states than to national public opinion. If those members’ calculations were wrong, they’ll find that out when they stand for re-election.

In his recent New Yorker piece, “Four Reasons Why the Gun-Control Bills Failed,” Ryan Lizza complained about “how anti-Democratic and dysfunctional our political architecture is.” (He isn’t the only one to complain about this.)

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