Clarence Fanto: A week of pride, chaos and disgust
Shame and pride. What a cascade of emotions as a chaotic week ended on Friday with the astonishing, melodramatic, violent, almost unbelievable climax of the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers accompanied by the lockdown of Boston and its western suburbs.
"I think it's fair to say this entire week we've been in pretty direct confrontation with evil," said Secretary of State John Kerry.
Yet, we feel pride in the resilience and fortitude of Bostonians, the hardiest of breeds even under the most adverse circumstances.
And sadly, shame, as expressed by a furious President Obama and an abashed Majority Leader Harry Reid, over the craven, contemptible cave-in on Capitol Hill as seven Senate proposals to curb gun violence went down to an ignominious defeat, all failing to reach the 60-vote supermajority required for passage.
No surprise that the strongest proposal, to renew and strengthen a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, mustered only 40 Democratic votes. No surprise that a less sweeping measure to limit those ammunition magazines to 10 rounds went by the wayside with 46 in favor, 56 opposed.
Even a bipartisan effort to require background checks for weapons sales at gun shows and over the Internet fell six votes short, a 54-46 outcome that included negative votes by four Democrats from rural states with many gun owners. It never had a chance because of unyielding opposition, distortions and outright lies spread by the NRA (which used to support identical proposals) and the even more extreme Gun Owners of America organization.
Never mind that this most moderate bill exempted sales between friends and family members from background checks. It contained no provision for creation of a national gun registry, as claimed by some who argue that the Second Amendment is inviolate. Note that automobiles must be registered. Why not weapons?
Never mind that even the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 5-4 ruling in 2008 upholding a strict gun-rights interpretation of the amendment stated that "like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." The opinion was written by the hero of conservatives, Justice Antonin Scalia.
Never mind that every major poll shows 86 to 90 percent public support for expanded background checks; even the vast majority of gun owners are in favor.
Never mind that, despite the specious arguments of gun-safety opponents that restrictions don't work, both Australia and Scotland have seen dramatic reductions in violence and fatalities since very stringent controls were imposed by conservative leaders following massacres that claimed many lives.
Rational, logical arguments failed to win on Capitol Hill despite the post-Newtown effort to apply some sanity to the subculture made up of a small minority of gun owners. The opposition, out of paranoia that their guns could be taken away and hostility toward the federal government in general and President Obama in particular, has once again carried the day despite the heroic efforts of Newtown parents to persuade senators whose minds were closed, as it turned out.
In the aftermath of 9/11 and other outbreaks of terrorism over the past 12 years, the nation has imposed an extensive list of restrictions, controls, bans, you name it. About 3,400 terror-related fatalities have been recorded since 1970 in this country. At least 900,000 gun-related deaths have been logged since 1980.
"To battle the evil of terror, we started two wars, tortured people, reorganized almost the entire federal government, disallowed the air trafficking of shampoo and conditioner, and OK'd the robot sky-killing of American citizens if warranted by someone, because one American life lost to terror is one too many, which I agree with," declared Jon Stewart at his most bitter, sarcastic best on "The Daily Show" last Thursday night.
But, he continued, "it seems to me we'll move heaven and earth to do whatever it takes to keep weapons from falling into the hands of foreigners who might kill our citizens, because apparently we think killing our citizens is our job."
It's tempting to feel despair. But the Newtown parents inspire us not to give up. So, onward and upward with hope and faith that the goodness of the American people may yet prevail through an outcry to force lawmakers to do the right thing.
Clarence Fanto can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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